Mideast edition, Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Nearly 100 servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan will get the chance to see live webcasts of their children’s high school graduations, according to the Department of Defense Dependents Schools.

It’s the fourth year the schools and the military have provided the webcasts for students and deployed parents at schools throughout England, Germany and Italy, said Dennis Bohannon, a spokesman for DODDS-Europe.

So far, 18 schools are participating in the webcasts, though officials say more can be added as the June graduation dates near.

During the broadcasts, the deployed parents will be able to see their graduating seniors cross the stage during actual ceremonies. They will also view student messages recorded for the celebrations.

“There is no room for error,” Diana Ohman, director of the Europe schools, was quoted as saying in a news release. “It is important to the graduating senior that he or she be able to share the event with their parents, as well as for the deployed parent to be able to view their son or daughter crossing the stage.”

The project involves input from military units stretching from Germany to the Middle East, including U.S. Army Europe, 5th Signal Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Combined Joint Task Force — 82 in Afghanistan and Multi-National Corps — Iraq, according to DODDS.

The planning for the webcasts started in January, with schools collecting the names of students with parents who were expected to be deployed in June. The info went to U.S. Army Europe and the final contract was awarded to World Television Services, a German company, according to DODDS.

In the next few weeks, the contractor will work at each site to test connectivity, according to the release. Additionally, each high school is being paired with a signal battalion in its region for backup and technical support.

“The next few weeks are going to be busy, and we expect changes and alterations right up to the last minute of the last graduation ceremony,” Angela Fobbs of 5th Signal Command was quoted in the release.

“But when you see the faces of the graduating seniors, listen to their recorded and live messages, and read the responses from parents, it becomes real obvious that this is a good and worthwhile effort.”

Watch the walk

Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe high schools participating in the live webcasts of graduations for seniors with parents in Iraq and Afghanistan:

June 7 – Ansbach and Würzburg

June 8 – Bamberg, Hanau, Hohenfels, Kaiserslautern, Lajes, Lakenheath and Ramstein

June 9 – Aviano, Bitburg, Mannheim, Vilseck and Wiesbaden

June 10 – Heidelberg, Patch and Vicenza

June 15 – AFNorth

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