USS NEW ORLEANS, At sea
–- The religious ministries team aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) launched its “United Through Reading” (UTR) program Nov. 16 for Sailors and Marines to use throughout the ship’s deployment.
UTR provides the opportunity to keep an open line on communication with loved ones and help relieve the stress of deployment by having deployed service members read aloud to children via DVD.
The program is available to any service member, including those who do not have children but would like to send a message or read a book to someone special in their lives.
“Just taking the 10 or 15 minutes to refocus on the home front helps us stay balanced and keep our perspective on what we’re actually fighting for, the freedoms of our friends and family members at home,” said Lt. Paul Armstrong, USS New Orleans’ Chaplain. “It’s also a great way to say ‘I love you’ in a way that will really connect with a child’s heart.”
Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Marilyn Smith expressed her excitement with the program and said she plans to record a DVD at least once a month throughout the deployment.
“My daughter just started to read before I left and this is a great way for me to continue being there,” she said. “It’s very tough, but the technology we have today helps us bridge the gap and bring us closer to our family, even if we aren’t (physically) there.”
While the child watches the DVD, his or her reaction is recorded and sent to the service member via e-mail or through the mail.
“I know what her reaction will be, she’ll be happy, probably clap and point to the screen and say ‘that’s my mommy!’” she said. “It’s tough being away from her, but this helps me stay connected.”
According to the program’s official website UTR is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 that has united families facing physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together
New Orleans is assigned to Amphibious Squadron 5, and along with embarked Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, deployed Nov. 14 as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Readiness Group.
Commissioned in 2007, New Orleans is the second of the San Antonio-class transport dock ships. Its warfighting capabilities include a state-of-the-art command and control suite, substantially increased vehicle lift capacity, a large flight deck, and advanced ship survivability features that enhance its ability to operate in the littoral environment.