While the Multi-National Corps-Iraq Chaplain's Office offers many services to help deployed military members and civilians with the struggles they may face down range, perhaps the most important is keeping them connected with family.
The chaplain's office offers anyone on Camp Victory the opportunity to keep in touch with family members back in the states through video via a Video Messenger System originally given to III Corps by Morale, Welfare and Recreation. To those back home missing their troop, one video can mean the world.
"[The system] is mainly used for troops to read to their kids, but if you don't have kids, you can talk to your wife," said Petty Officer 1st Class Donnell P. Stephens, chaplain assistant, MNC-I. "If you don't have a wife, you can talk to your mom, brother or sister."
Servicemembers and civilians must only call in, schedule a time and show up, and the chaplain's office does the rest.
"We load up the DVD in the system and give them the remote to control the cameras so they can stop it or zoom in or out," Stephens said. "When they finish, they get us and we finalize the DVD."
Each person can have a 30-minute video recorded once a week, during which they may read to their children or simply greet their loved ones, Stephens said.
"It would be best to call, but if you're in the area and happen to stop by, we'll set you up and get a DVD knocked out, if there's no one scheduled," Stephens said. "We have books in the administrations office if troops want them."
The chaplain's office also provides the envelopes for mail and it is free to mail the DVDs home, Stephens said. All the person must do is add the destination address and return address.
It means a lot to families to receive e-mails and letters from their troops, but to actually see them in person means much more.
"If you have kids, I know they'll be amazed and it will make a big impact in their lives," said Staff Sgt. Lesly A. Torres, NCOIC, chaplain assistant, MNC-I. "I had the whole entire section sing Happy Birthday to my son in English and Spanish. We all squeezed in the room. He loved it."
"My son has a new batch of stories my wife can play for him each week," said Maj. Mike Kepner, battalion executive officer, Task Force Dragon. "Every day he hears my voice and sees my face, so when I get home after fifteen months he'll recognize me."
Though the chaplain's office is already very helpful in providing those deployed with a way to stay connected to home, they're trying to make it even better.
"We're in the process of getting another video set and a lot more books," Torres said.
The program can make deployments a little more tolerable and is a highly successful morale builder for troops, exactly what it was meant to do. Down the road, it can only grow.
"It's an outstanding piece of equipment to keep Soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen connected with home," Stephens said.