Morale: August 4, 2004


The Internet has been one of the major morale builders in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most battalions have set up an Internet Caf, and try to set up enough computers (usually laptops) with Internet connections to allow each soldier or marine at least one session a week. To make this possible, some units run their cafes 24/7. Actually, this is often necessary because many combat units operate 24/7, running day and night operations in shifts. Many troops work 12 hours on and 12 off. So a round the clock Internet Caf is a necessity. Troops are allowed 20-30 minutes per session, and most just read and reply to email. But many of the Internet Caf PCs have webcams and VOIP (telephone calls over the Internet) software. This allows some, who have family and friends on the other end with equivalent equipment, to see and speak with the folks back home. Most military bases in the United States and Europe have set up Internet Cafes with webcam and VOIP gear so that family can come in and hold a "televisit" with their soldier, sailor, airman or marine in Iraq. This equipment was used to show live web coverage of high school graduation ceremonies on many military bases. Parents who were stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan were able to view their kids via the Internet Cafes. 

The majority of the troops use the email, and some manage to get into the Internet Caf just about every day. Recognizing the big morale boost the Internet access provides, the army and marines have made setting up the Internet Cafes a priority. If you can have one Internet connected PC for every 20-30 troops on a base, you will keep everyone happy. Well, not everyone. News of deaths in the family, or arguments with spouses or others, can take place via email. Dear John letters (where the girlfriend lets you know shes no longer your girlfriend) arrive by email, or are sometimes preceded by digital photos from someone else showing you that the girlfriend is playing around. But the majority of troops leave the Internet Caf feeling better than when they arrived.

Not all troops have regular access to an Internet Caf. Many bases are too small for an Internet Caf, or dont have Internet access. Commanders try and get around this by making it possible for troops to travel to a larger base regularly. The troops like to do this, despite the danger of roadside bombs in some parts of Iraq, to visit a PX (Post Exchange) to buy stuff, as well as hitting the Internet Cafe as well. The army and marines are extending Internet access as quickly as they can for purely military purposes. Being able to provide the troops with access to the folks back home is a valuable bonus. 




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