ABOARD THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD -- As Marines and Sailors of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit begin their six-month deployment, being away from loved ones will prove to be one of the most difficult things they will face.
On USS Bonhomme Richard, Marines and Sailors may find themselves becoming homesick, but there are many ways to stay in touch with people back home.
“Being underway, of course, makes it hard to communicate with families and friends,” said Cpl. Collin Peterson, motor transportation mechanic with Battalion Landing Team 3/1.
While Marines are able to use the internet and make phone calls underway, phone and computer quantities are limited. The phone cards needed to make calls can run rather expensive, and some Marines don’t even have e-mail.
“Communication outlets are available for Marines, but at times the internet or phones are down when not getting a signal,” said Peterson.
A quick and convenient way for family members to communicate with their service member is through MotoMail. MotoMail is a website that enables family members to write letters that are sent to a server, downloaded, printed and delivered to the military member, usually within 24 hours. MotoMail is private and can be sent anywhere Marines are deployed.
“The good thing about MotoMail is that it eliminates [unauthorized materials] and contamination issues,” said Lance Cpl. Cornel Conley-Thomas, 13th MEU postal clerk.
According to postal clerks on ship, over five-hundred MotoMail letters have been sent to the ship since the deployment began.
Another way that Marines can stay connected with their families is by good old-fashioned mail.
Conley-Thomas said that depending on how far away the ship is from shore, mail sent from the United States is brought over by helicopter or another ship. Usually the mail clerks are able to get letters and packages to the Marines that same day.
“Everyone who works in the postal room puts in a lot of effort to make sure the Marines get their mail as soon as possible because we know that it is a very crucial morale booster,” said Conley-Thomas.
Postal clerks on ship offer some tips to help families when sending packages during the deployment:
-Use mailing tape when sending packages.
-Place liquid items in separate zip lock bags.
-Use durable boxes in the smallest size needed.
-Wrap items in bubble wrap and pack tightly to avoid items from shifting or breaking.
There are also limitations when sending mail to loved ones on ship. Obscene materials such as pornographic pictures, books and magazine should not be sent to Marines or Sailors. While in Islamic states, pork, pork by-products and any other products and or materials that are offensive to Islamic culture are also prohibited.
“This deployment is going to be tough for everyone,” said Peterson. “I’m just glad to know that the lines of communication with the people I care about can remain open for the duration [of the deployment].”