The men and women of the United States military overseas spend months, and sometimes years, away from their families in the name of service. The toll this takes on morale and on their relationships with parents, spouses, children, and extended family can be great. The military is constantly seeking out ways to improve the quality of life of their officers and make the distance between them and their families a little less significant.

In focus groups conducted through the Rand Corporation, military personnel reported that talking to family members on the phone was often an unreliable source of communication. Connections are often broken or interrupted, and even a short phone call can be costly. E-mail was also unreliable because access to computers and Internet can be hard to come by on military bases. The results of the research concluded that military personnel need access to better communication sources to reduce the stress of being separated from family members. Videoconferencing has been part of the solution, and it’s been applied in several creative and crucial ways.


Military-Grade Technologies Make Videoconferencing Possible

The solution has involved a mix of innovation and existing military technologies. The U.S. military holds top-secret meetings using a video teleconference system that transmits audio and video over a secure satellite network. Troops can connect to the system from any location that is wired to it – headquarters, battlefield, or military bases. After years of using the system for official military business, the potential for letting military personnel use it for connecting to their families became clear.


“Morale Calls” Reduce Military Stress

“Morale calls” started to become commonplace using a videoconferencing medium during the Gulf War, allowing military personnel 10-minute calls a few times a month over the military’s Defense Switched Network (DSN). Managed through Family Readiness Centers, videoconferencing helps connect military personnel with their immediate family members over the secure network. When a parent, spouse or child isn’t sure how to reach their active duty military family member overseas, they can contact a Family Readiness Center for help getting in touch.


Outside Organizations Help Improve Access

While the military has made great strides to provide videoconferencing access to members and their families, other groups outside the military have also pitched in. The Red Cross runs a program called “Operation Video Connect,” which gives military families access to videoconferencing software that they can use to record video messages that are sent to their active duty family members. The Freedom Calls Foundation provides free videoconferencing services to families. The organization is particularly active during the holidays, when military personnel are most affected by the distance. The moments captured through the Foundation are priceless: events like graduation ceremonies, soccer games, and even weddings have been shared with overseas family members on videoconferences. Without these services, military men and women would miss out on many important family events.


Videoconferencing Key to Surviving Separation

Videoconferencing has been such a morale boost for military personnel that the U.S. military has deemed it “mission critical.” It continues to become more readily available to military personnel, and military families have many resources through which they can use videoconferencing software. The use of videoconferencing in the military for personal family communications will only grow and develop as it becomes more widely used and demand increases. A powerful tool for keeping families connected, it also keeps soldiers working at full capacity by boosting individual and overall morale.

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Posted by Agnes Jozwiak

Agnes is the Brand & Communication Director at ClickMeeting.

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