By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bryan Mai
USS George Washington Public Affairs
PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) are utilizing the ship's United Through Reading program to stay connected with their families.
"United Through Reading involves videotaping Sailors reading books for their children," said Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Champion, Washington's point of contact for the United Through Reading program. "We give the Sailors the privacy and time to read a book of their choice."
Washington has a shelf in its library dedicated to the program. After a Sailor finishes with the recording, Champion will copy the video to a disk and the Sailor can send it back home.
"I use United Through Reading because it's more personal," said Airman Alexander Atizado. "With a phone call, my family can hear my voice but cannot see my face. With e-mail or letters, they can't hear my voice or see my face. However, with the United Through Reading program, my family can see my face and hear my voice when I read a bedtime story and I am able to leave a message at the end of it."
Many Sailors that have used the program often participate more than once.
"I've used the program twice," said Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collection) Derek Erickson. "I e-mail and call home regularly but my two boys are too young to read and when I video-call them in port, they reach for the phone and accidentally hang up. With United Through Reading they can see my face and I can tell them things personally."
Some Sailors have received proof of their children enjoying their United Through Reading videos.
"My wife has mentioned how excited my children get when they watch me on video," said Erickson. "They point to the screen and talk to me as the video is playing. It's very heartwarming to hear my boys say 'I love you, Daddy'. To get that response with the United Through Reading program is priceless."
According to Champion, Washington had 145 Sailors sign up for the program in September. The program is immensely popular and 45 Sailors have already signed up for the first week of October.
Held by Commander, U.S. Southern Command and executed by U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, SOUTHERN SEAS 15 is a U.S. Navy deployment to conduct Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) activities and exercises including UNITAS 2015 in order to enhance relationships and interoperability with partner nations in the Caribbean, Central and South America.
Washington is deployed as part of Southern Seas 2015 which seeks to enhance interoperability, increase regional stability and build and maintain relationships with countries throughout the region through joint, multinational and interagency exchanges and cooperation.