CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. (Army News Service, Aug. 20, 2009) -- Mobilizing Soldiers hoping to stay in touch with their loved ones back home now have a better way to do so here with the recent inclusion of a new Internet service provider.

The Alternate Escapes Network, provided by the Army recreation machine program, offers Soldiers preparing for or returning from deployments here access to the Internet for an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly fee. Proceeds from the program are then given to the Army's morale, welfare and recreation program. All a Soldier needs is a personal computer that includes an Ethernet data port.

Sgt. 1st Class Marlynn McDaniel, the installation's information technology systems support chief, said the service is offered at the Camp Atterbury USO and The House CafAfA/All Ranks Club where it allows Soldiers more flexibility than the previous post ISP.

"The primary function of our current ISP is to provide mobilizing Soldiers from other state connectivity to the Internet," he said. "So, for example, a guy from Guam can come in, plug into the ISP and dial into his own network back home."

However, the current or regular ISP is also designed to support training operations on post, McDaniel added, which limits the Soldiers to what Web sites they can view. Those sites have firewalls which block access to around 400 sites. The sites include most of the popular social networks, entertainment Web sites as well as streaming video such as

"Per regulation, I've blocked most of the personal Web sites such as MySpace and Face book, which you can now access through the new MWR-provided network," McDaniel said.

The new service also frees up available network bandwidth on the post's ISP, which in turn allows for more bandwidth to conduct official business rather than net surfing, McDaniel said. "When the 85th Division was mobilizing through here (in 2006), so many people were on our ISP that there was little to no bandwidth in order to accommodate them," he said.

More importantly though, Soldiers have the ability to communicate with friends and family during a deployment, said Sgt. 1st Class Doug Williamson, head of the post's MWR operations. "This gives them better access to their loved ones back home," he said. "So far, several Soldiers have taken advantage of the service. Everyone seems to like it."

One Soldier taking advantage of the new ISP is Pvt. Thomas Yohn with the 296th Transportation Company. While between training in preparation for deployment to Iraq, Yohn and his buddy, Pfc. Sylvester McGhee, purchased a day's worth of connectivity to shop for shoes and surf other Web sites.

"It's just like using the other computers (offered at the USO), but I don't have to wait 20 minutes to use it," said McGhee. "Plus, I can use my own computer, so that makes it easier and more convenient for me."

(Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III serves with Camp Atterbury Public Affairs.)