Deployed Sailors Aboard USS Pearl Harbor Connect with Family Members 
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Behnke, Amphibious Squadron 5 Public Affairs  
USS PEARL HARBOR, At sea – Deployed Sailors and Marines aboard dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) began using the United Through Reading (UTR) program Dec. 5 to keep in touch.

The religious ministries team facilitates the program, but volunteers from all over the ship keep it running throughout deployment.

“We have a lot of volunteers who help out with the program,” said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Maila Castillo. “They assist them with finding the right book for the age of their kids. Then they help them with the recording.”

The recording goes on a DVD, which is provided free of charge to the service member. All they have to do is record a special message to their loved ones and mail it home.

“Last deployment, I did two or three recordings myself,” said Castillo. “My family thought it was great.”

UTR was founded in 1989. Since then, more than half a million children and adults have participated.

Many of the Sailors aboard Pearl Harbor, like Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuels) Richard Decker, have used UTR in the past with great success.

“My kids would watch the DVDs over and over again,” said Decker. “They learn to read at the same time.”

UTR does more than just give the children a chance to see their loved one speaking directly to them, but it also works the other way. Family members can record themselves watching the video and send it back to the deployed service member.

“I think it’s great. It lets you stay in touch with your kids,” said Decker. “It lets your kids and yourself share something special, even though you’re separated.”

Pearl Harbor will continue to foster those relationships through UTR throughout the deployment.

Pearl Harbor deployed Nov. 14 in support of the Navy’s Maritime Strategy, along with the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18), which make up the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).

The Mission of the Makin Island ARG is to help provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas and provide humanitarian/disaster response as well as supporting the Navy’s Maritime Strategy when forward deployed.
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