USS MOBILE BAY, At Sea - In a room about the size of a walk-in closet sits Boatswain's Mate 1st Class John Flohrs. He's reading a children's book out loud for his kids.
"He can go like a cow. He can go MOO MOO," said Flohrs.
The catch is that he's deployed in the middle of the ocean aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), while his kids are half-a-world away in Bothell, Washington.
He took a break out of his 12-hour work day to use the help of the nonprofit organization called United Through Reading (UTR) to be recorded reading one of his kids' favorite books.
"Dibble Dibble, dopp dopp dopp - that's my favorite part," he said with nostalgia as he read one of the first books his daughter learned how to read.
UTR was founded in 1989, and since then, has allowed millions of deployed service members to record themselves reading, singing, or just talking, to send to their families back home.
"I've been in the Navy for more than 20 years and the ability now, for parents to reach out to loved ones is just phenomenal," said Chief Damage Controlman Christopher Wilson. "I remember writing letters, and now we have this opportunity to sit in front of a camera, talking and reading a story, it's just phenomenal."
Wilson and the Damage Control division aboard Mobile Bay took on the project of running the UTR program and designing the space used for it. The space now includes multiple backgrounds, toys to use as props, and even hand puppets.
"We're prepared for puppet shows, anything like that, we're up for anything," said Damage Controlman 2nd Class Steve McCloskey, who does most of the recordings for Mobile Bay.
"We have even taped flight quarters and underway replenishments to add to the excitement in the videos for the kids," McCloskey said. "This is something I took a lot of pride in."
McCloskey said other people would tell him their kids watch the videos every day, which is why he is so dedicated to doing a good job with this program.
"We flex to make it happen, even in the middle of the work day," said McCloskey. "We don't say no because it is important."
"I get emotional in there," said Flohrs. "It's like I'm finally being able to do something to be part of their lives while I'm out here."
Mobile Bay is deployed with the John C. Stennis strike group to the 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security corporation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom.