War on Terrorism

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Iowa Guardmember still wakes infant daughter daily – from Afghanistan

By Army Spc. Adam L. Mathis
Task Force Red Bulls

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (2/18/11) – More than a quarter of the earth's surface stands between Army Staff Sgt. David Bloyer and his wife and daughter – or more than 7,000 miles separating completely different hemispheres – and Bagram Airfield is 10.5 hours ahead of this Guardsman's Iowa home.

But Bloyer is there almost every morning to wake his 1-year-old daughter, Skylar.

Although Afghanistan does not have the amenities of the United States, Iowa National Guard Soldiers like Bloyer find ways to bridge the distance.

Most military installations have come to offer a variety of choices to reach loved ones back home – even for fathers who want to "be there" when their daughter wakes up.

A chance to see: video calling

Bloyer uses an Internet-based video calling program to call home a little before Iowa time. This gives him and his wife, Sasha, time to talk in private.

Then, Sasha carries the computer into their daughter's bedroom.

"We'll go wake Skylar up together, which is pretty cool because I like being able to see her right when she wakes up," said Bloyer, the assistant information operations officer and targeting and electronic warfare noncommissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls.

"It's one of my favorite things. It's pretty awesome; it's amazing how much she has grown."

To be there every morning for his daughter, Bloyer, who has been in Afghanistan since November, pays for Internet access through an Afghan contractor. Though Morale, Welfare and Recreation centers offer free Internet, purchasing access offers more privacy.

"It makes it more bearable being able to see your loved ones every day," said Bloyer.

"But in another way, it kind of makes you more homesick. [My wife is] like right there, and some days I'm just like, 'Ah, I wish I could just go home.' But, all in all, I would say that it's a blessing, really, to be able to see them every day."

Chatting with friends: Internet, social networking

Army Sgt. Lance Morrow knows that feeling of homesickness.
Morrow, a medic with the medical platoon, 1st Bn., 168th Inf. Regt, TF Lethal, at Forward Operating Base Gardez, has been in Afghanistan since November and keeps in touch with his friends via the Internet, using a social networking site.

"[It's] great for dropping somebody a message or following somebody on their wall. It's easier than sending out constant e-mails to people," Morrow said.

While his FOB has a facility for free Internet, Morrow also chooses to purchase it to have personal Internet access in his room.

Phone home: MWR

Many Soldiers are willing to settle for what the military can provide.

MWR facilities provide free phone calls and Internet. According to Lacey Castleberry, an MWR specialist, on Bagram Airfield in January, 32,550 people used the Internet and 11,993 used the free phone service. These facilities exist at other locations as well.

Spc. Curtis Blake Jr., a radio telephone operator with Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Brigade, Task Force Red Bulls, talks to his girlfriend over a phone provided by the local MWR facility at Camp Najil.

"She stays strong, at least when we talk on the phone," Blake said.

He said talking to her helps reduce the stress.

Like many other Soldiers, staying in touch back home is an emotional release, a chance to communicate with people outside of the Army, and keeps him focused for his work in Afghanistan.

"It's probably one of the few things that keep me sane," Blake joked.

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