Need to answer the call of duty? Say your vows? Technology keeps Incirlik Airmen connected

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Anthony Sanchelli
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
It's late on a Saturday night, you're thumbs-deep in helping fight off another swarm of enemy soldiers. While listening to your teammates give instructions through a headset, the mission is accomplished with help from halfway around the world.

This is how Tyler Wilson, 9-year-old son of Master Sgt. Robert Wilson, 39th Security Forces Squadron, keeps in touch with his friends and family.

Wilson plays combat games online with his distant friends and family members, using headsets to talk to one another.

"I talk to my uncle a lot more during games than I do on the phone," said Wilson.

Communication between loved ones isn't always done by phone, email or simple social media messaging. Technology enables Airmen to use a wide variety of capabilities to talk and even see others from anywhere - virtually.

"It's really cool that I can play my favorite games online and also talk with my uncle who's super far away," Wilson said.

Wilson plays a number of games, but enjoys playing "first-person shooters" the most.

"It's epic that we can just talk about the game, plan strategies, and still stay connected," Wilson said.

Wilson and his uncle even joke about who is the better player. Online gaming however, is not the only way members can remain in contact.

For members stationed at Incirlik, staying in touch can be a big deal, said Airman 1st Class Michael Colon-Rodriguez, 39th Communications Squadron voice systems technician. Some Airmen are stationed here alone, away from their families, and it can be a difficult tour without seeing or speaking with a spouse or child.

Sometimes just hearing a family member isn't enough, said Colon-Rodriguez, but in this day and age it's possible to be thousands of miles away and still see others in real-time. Knowing that there are options and finding out what is right is important for those who can't be with their families, and especially for those with children.

"Using Skype helps my wife and I see and talk to each other as if we are not separated," said Colon-Rodriguez.

Skype is a computer program that uses a digital video camera, allowing individuals to virtually talk and see others anywhere in the world. This and other social media outlets are useful tools to help Airmen cope with a 15 or 24-month tour here.

For one Airman, a video-conference was his ticket to see his fiancé, now his wife, as they shared their vows during an online marriage ceremony. Senior Airman Daniel Phelps, 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs photojournalist, stationed at Incirlik, was able to marry his wife, Kari Phelps, while she was in Olathe, Kan.

"We wanted to get married before she came to visit, but we knew it would be a challenge since I'm here and she's there," said Phelps. "We did some research and found several states allow a proxy marriage, where one person is not in attendance during the ceremony."

Phelps was not the only one unable to make the ceremony. The bride's parents tuned in virtually to be a part of the ceremony as well.

There are so many options available to stay in touch.

Email and social pages, such as Facebook or Myspace, are still good ways to stay connected, Colon-Rodriguez said.

"Even though there are so many options available to stay connected, my wife and I prefer to use programs that let us see one another over just sending an email or instant message online," said Colon-Rodriguez.

Whether it's instant messaging online, planning out battle strategies on the latest video game or even getting married, Airmen can communicate with their friends and families back home from anywhere in the world.

"I find it a necessity to be able to chat and see my spouse with us being separated for so long," said Colon-Rodriguez. "It helps keep our sanity in check."