USS TORTUGA, At Sea - Sailors aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga received long distance telephone cards thanks to a commercial sponsorship between the Navy Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and Cell Phones for Soldiers program.
The calling cards were sent to the ship's chaplain to help boost morale and to further support the non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing cost-free communication services to active duty military members and veterans.
"This is a really good program," said Quartermaster Seaman Alex Bridenbaugh. "This program allows me to call home and talk to my mom without having to spend what little money I have."
Cell Phones for Soldiers began in 2004 by Robbie and Brittany Berquist, brother and sister from Norwell, Mass., to help Soldiers and Sailors overseas call home. The program has provided more than 168 million minutes of free talk time, recycled more than 10.5 million cell phones and mailed approximately 12,000 calling cards each week.
"We were trying to find a way to help our Sailors' and Marines' morale while on deployment," said Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Yanet Chavezespinoza. "I found the program Cell Phones for Soldiers, let them know about Tortuga and they sent roughly 300 calling cards for our Sailors and Marines whenever they needed to call home."
Calling cards are given out through Tortuga's chaplain services to Sailors and Marines who do not have the funds to purchase calling cards or who need to make an emergency call home.
"I think this is an awesome program for our service members," said Lt. Adrienne Townsend, ship's chaplain. "The program helps Sailors and Marines feel appreciated, especially for those who financially may be under some constraints, this is an opportunity for them to just freely be able to reach out to their support network back home."
Tortuga is part of the forward-deployed Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and is currently operating the 7th Fleet Area of Operations. The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, commanded by Capt. Cathal S. O'Connor, is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga and amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) .