WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Dec. 11, 2006) - Soldiers and families can now communicate by video e-mail through the Army Knowledge Online intranet portal. On the first day, more than 3,500 video emails were transmitted.

"Thank you, that's all I can say," e-mailed PV2 Brenden Teetsell of the 44th Signal Battalion on Dec. 6. "Thank you for allowing me to see my family. Your technology helps boost not only my morale, but thousands of Soldiers a day."

AKO video messaging allows all deployed active-duty, National Guard, and Army Reserve Soldiers to create video messages on a computer with a webcam. The message is then stored on a server and sent to the recipient via a URL link.

Upon opening an e-mail, the user clicks on the link to get streaming video and sound. The video-streaming software allows a Soldier to hear and view video email even in limited bandwidth environments, but the link can be accessed anytime, from anywhere.

Instructions are on a link on their AKO home page. Soldiers must follow the same Department of Defense security measures used for standard e-mail. Webcams will not be used in secure areas.

Families with an AKO account can send video e-mails from home with a personal computer and a webcam. They can also use webcams in many of the yellow ribbon rooms on military bases. In-theater military bases typically have webcams available at cyber cafes.

"Families no longer need to coordinate times to ensure everyone is available to see each other," said Gary L. Winkler, director for Governance, Acquisition, and Knowledge in the Army Chief Information Office/G-6, who initiated the project.

"This will help geographically separated families stay closer during deployment, and we also expect other benefits from this capability as users become more familiar and comfortable with it," he said.

In the future, Army video email applications could also be used for distance learning and training, recruiting, and telemedicine.

(McBride serves with the Army Chief Information Office/G-6.)