BAGHDAD - In previous years, communication with the outside world wasn't always easy while on a deployment. Today, Soldiers serving in Iraq are finding that technological advancements are helping them stay closer to family members and closer to home.Two Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division recently used multimedia technology to perform ceremonies for their loved ones.First Lt. Angelo Valdebenito, a Miami native and the battalion adjutant assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, raised his hand as he stood in front of his laptop, which was placed on a lectern in front of the American flag April 29 at Victory Base Complex.Skype, a free online webcam and chat service, enabled Valdebenito to administer his wife's oath of commission. The former Staff Sgt. Lisandra Valdebenito duplicated the oath to officially state her new pledge to the United States Army as a 2nd lieutenant after completing of Officer Candidate School."One of her dreams was for me to be present, and Skype made it possible for me to be there," said Valdebenito.After swearing his wife into the U.S. Army Officer Corps., Angelo said, "I wasn't able to be there physically, but I was there mentally."Throughout the deployment, Skype has helped the couple stay close, but Skype isn't the only way in which Soldiers and loved ones are able to come together during ceremonies.Capt. Matt Hardy, a communications officer with 1st Bn., assisted Capt. John Bond in coordinating with U.S. Air Force members to arrange a re-enlistment ceremony via video teleconference at an Air Force facility May 2.Bond, the Battery B commander and a native of Silver Spring, Md., was given the opportunity to re-enlist his big brother, Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Bond, who has been in the Navy for 16 years and is currently serving in Bahrain as an intelligence specialist."The last time I saw my brother was two Christmases ago," said Bond.
Bond stood in a small conference room with several Airmen present, who wanted to partake in the joint ceremony. The brothers greeted each other with a few jokes before the ceremony, but they quickly snapped to attention as the ceremony commenced.Like Valdebenito, Bond raised his right hand and administered the re-enlistment oath as his brother recited the words after him. John was proud to be the officer swearing in Eric with his final re-enlistment ceremony."It was a special connection just to talk using the same mannerisms and to look at him," said Bond. He added that he felt especially connected when they were reciting the oath despite the vast distance that separated them.When recalling previous deployments, Valdebenito said phone calls were even a challenge in the past. Technological advancements are keeping service members in touch with their loved ones both back home and overseas, which is increasing troop morale.Both officers agreed that it is important to incorporate ways to boost morale while Soldiers are deployed. Connecting with loved ones through communication methods such as Skype and video teleconference calls is strengthening Soldiers and supporting them during their mission in Iraq.