New message for sailors at sea:Youve got mail
By Gregg K. Kakesako
ABOARD THE USS CONSTELLATION -- Mail call on the USS Constellation, like many U.S. Navy warships, usually was three to four weeks apart or when the ship made a port call.
Capt. Donald Bullard, skipper of the aircraft carrier USS Constellation, recalls getting Halloween and Thanksgiving goodies at one mail call.
But all that is changing.
Now all 5,000 members of the Constellation and its accompanying air wing have e-mail addresses and access to 26 Pentium II personal computers.
On the Pearl Harbor-based Aegis guided-missile cruiser, USS Chosin, sailor e-mail also is readily accessible to the ship's 40 officers and 345 sailors.
On the Chosin's last deployment, it cost the sailors a dollar a message.
This time the service is free, just as on the Constellation, and the Chosin, which left Hawaii June 19, is averaging about 500 e-mails a day.
"I never used e-mail until I got on the ship (Chosin)," said Seaman Joel Barber.
"My parents just got a computer, so now I can contact them all the time. I'm close with my parents and my being away in the Navy has been hard on my mom. This has been great for them because it's better and quicker than writing letters," said Barber, 23, of Lewiston, Mont.
Chosin Yeoman 1st Class Lou Martinez said he likes e-mail's ability to communicate quickly.
"When you deploy you have a checklist of things to take care of before you go, but there is always something you forget," he said.
Fireman Control Technician 3rd Class Richard Hankins said recently his wife, who is living in Ewa Beach, was told by e-mail to take care of a bill that Hankins didn't have time to get to before the Chosin left Hawaii last month.
Chief Sonar Technician Kevin Johnson said he uses one of the 35 computers on the Chosin and e-mail service to subscribe to CNN for news and sports.
"I like that a lot. It keeps me informed on what is going on in the world," said Johnson, who is from Missoula, Mont.
"The sailors love it," said Cmdr. Anne Westerfield, the Constellation's combat systems officer. "I communicate with my husband every day."
"It is sure cheaper than using the ship's satellite phone service which can amount to $1.50 a minute," said Petty Officer 1st Class Curtis Sims.
If the Constellation should ever get into combat, the ship would be able to receive e-mail, but sailors would not be able to send letters electronically. The Constellation also has a Web page where videos of the carrier's activities are posted periodically.
Bullard, skipper of the Constellation, said his crew is well aware of the ship's security measures and what type of information can be transmitted.
Although family snapshots can be e-mailed, things like mom's cookies still have to travel the old fashion way.