Misawa suspends morale, video calling
March 30, 2003
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Be understanding and patient.
That’s what the top Air Force commander at Misawa is telling families hoping to hear from loved ones deployed to the Middle East.
Morale and video teleconferencing calls have been suspended, meaning questions from children to mommies and daddies deployed half a world away are being deferred. The military has clamped down on all but essential communications between installations.
Brig. Gen. Dana Atkins, 35th Fighter Wing commander, hopes services can be restored “in a few weeks,” he said Friday.
Atkins spoke on his Commander’s Open Line call-in radio program on Misawa’s American Forces Network.
Capt. John Haynes, a Misawa spokesman, said, “It has to do with a need for bandwidth for combat use, so unnecessary calls had to be cut out.”
Several times a week, Misawa families had been able to trek to Misawa’s Family Support Center for 15-minute videoconferences with those deployed. Since December, a large contingent of Misawa’s 14th Fighter Squadron troops have been deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. But the video feeds required significant portions of communications lines, prompting the curtailment of personal calls.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Staff Sgt. Tim Taylor of Misawa 35th Medical Group. “I always looked forward to making the video call each month.”
Taylor’s wife, Rica, is a staff sergeant and an information manager deployed to the desert base since Thanksgiving. Now that morale and video calls are temporarily on hold, the couple keeps in touch through e-mails.
Tim Taylor usually brought the couple’s 14-month daughter, Alofania, so Rica could see her.
“Seeing her each month helps get us through the rough times,” he said. “I hope they get it up again soon.”
The policy does not affect other CENTCOM-area bases, Army Maj. Rumi Nielson-Green, a CENTCOM spokeswoman in Doha, Qatar, said in an e-mail response.
“Prince Sultan Air Base has the restriction because of bandwidth limitations,” she said. “It’s not theaterwide.”
Misawa appears to be the only Pacific Air Force base affected. Capt. Heather Zwicker, a PACAF spokeswoman, said she was unaware of similar restrictions at other bases in South Korea, Alaska or Hawaii.
Naval commands in Japan also are not affected.
“We are not aware of any curtailment of morale or video teleconferencing calls involving naval units in Japan,” said Jon Nylander, a spokesman at Commander, Naval Forces Japan headquarters on Yokosuka Naval Base.
Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, 8th Army spokesman, said Iraqi operations have not curtailed communications of units in South Korea.
— T.D. Flack contributed to this report.