Sunday, June 21, 2009
British troops serving in the remotest parts of Afghanistan received Father's Day messages from their children within hours rather than weeks this year thanks to new technology.
Five "e-bluey" systems have been installed in isolated forward operating bases (FOBs) across Helmand province, allowing families to send photos and greetings to their loved ones more quickly and easily than ever before.
Messages are sent electronically, then printed out in the FOB and delivered straight to the troops - by contrast, it can take weeks for hand-written letters to reach far-flung camps.
Bombardier Benjamin Stickland, from Tidworth, Hampshire, who is currently based in Musa Qala, said it was "particularly special" to keep in touch with his wife Stella and children Emily, six, Caleb, two, and Logan, 10 months, on occasions like Father's Day.
"The introduction of the e-bluey system in the FOBs has made it so much easier to keep in touch with loved ones and that's the sort of thing that really raises morale when you're out on operations," he said.
The e-bluey system also allows troops on the frontline to write messages which are printed back in the UK within hours, sealed in an envelope and posted to their families.
Sergeant Dean Jackson-Smith, from Colchester, Essex, is the master chef with 2 Rifles Battle Group in FOB Jackson, based around the town of Sangin.
He said getting an e-bluey from his family - wife Lyndsey-Joanne, 25, and sons Louis, five, and Bobby, one - was "like being a kid and getting a birthday card with £10 in it".
"It's a massive pick-me-up just to be able to see the kids growing and changing while I'm here. I'm not able to go on a webcam or anything here, so the photo blueys are great.
"I'm really forward to getting home and doing normal dad things - taking them swimming and being a full-time dad again rather than a part-time one."