Photo Information

USS IWO JIMA (June 9, 2012) - 1st Lt. Thomas Smith, a Lexington, S.C., Native with the Command Element, 24th MEU, pose for a family photo prior to talking with his wife and children, through a video teleconference aboard the USS Iwo Jima, June 9, 2012. The 24th MEU is deployed with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (Official Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Chad R. Kiehl)

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Chad R. Kiehl

U.S. Marines, Sailors connect with families through video teleconference while deployed at sea

25 Aug 2012 | Staff Sgt. Robert L Fisher

Across eight time zones and 7,000 miles Lance Cpl. Rodman Charlesworth was able to have a face-to-face conversation from the middle of the Gulf of Aden with his pregnant wife.

He and other fellow Marines and Sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS New York contacted their family through a video teleconference system, Aug. 25, 2012, to meet their new babies and talk to their pregnant wives.

Charlesworth, a field artillery cannoneer with India Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th MEU, was able to see his wife, Kristina Amber Charlesworth, and talk to their future son, Adrian, still growing inside Kristina’s belly. Their conversation brought some encouragement about their long separation over this deployment.

“She’s doing well,” he said. “She heard stories about how hard deployments can be and she said being pregnant while I’m gone is as bad as it can get, and she said it’s still not hard.”

Long deployments come with many obstacles trying to stay in touch with loved ones. Telephone calls, letters and e-mails are the main method of communicating, but video teleconferencing allowed for a more personal contact.

Even with programs like Skype and Facetime available throughout the world, the ships do not have the bandwidth to support such internet programs. For some of the Marines and Sailors this was the first time they have seen each other since deploying in March.

“It feels good to be able to connect our Marines and Sailors with their loved ones by allowing them to be able to talk to each other through the VTC. I’m glad I get to be a part of that,” said Gunnery Sgt. Andre McKay, communications chief for the 24th MEU aboard the USS New York, who coordinated the VTC with the 24th MEU’s family readiness networks at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

This VTC capability on ship has helped bridge that technology gap for Marines like Charlesworth who expressed his pride for his wife’s strength and how she’s dealing with the trials of pregnancy while he’s deployed. His excitement was evident when he spoke of coming home as a father.

“She’ll be at 8-months next week… I can’t wait, it’s going to be cool. I always wanted to be a dad,” he said. “It was nice to see her and talk to her. I call as much as I can because I worry about her,” he said.

They’ve talked many times over the deployment, but those phone calls couldn’t compare to finally seeing her pregnant with their son.

“I really wanted to see her belly and it was really great to finally see it,” he said.

In June, the 24th MEU set up a similar VTC opportunity for Marines and Sailors aboard the USS Iwo Jima.  This is where Cpl. David Rohrer met his first born son, Eugene, merely ten days after he was born.

“When I heard that we were going to get this opportunity I was extremely excited, and so was my wife,” said Rohrer, of Louisville, Ohio, who is assigned to the combat cargo detachment aboard USS Iwo Jima.

His wife and nine-year-old step-daughter arrived just minutes before their scheduled meeting time on the VTC after making the hour long drive from their home to Camp Lejeune, which added to the anxiety and emotion of being able to meet through the VTC, said Rohrer.  

“It was great to see my family.  My son was a little fussy but I think he was just hungry.  I can’t wait to be home and just spend time with them,” said Rohrer who explained his wife would probably make the hour-long drive every day if they could meet like this.

For many of 24th MEU’s service members this deployment has allowed them to plan for the future and think about the direction they want to take.  Small things like these VTC meetings are reminders for all of them about what is waiting for them back home, while their focus now is getting through the long days remaining on this deployment.

“I take this deployment one day at a time and focus on bettering myself now while I’m out here,” said Charlesworth.