MADISON, Wisc., (6/26/09) – The Wisconsin National Guard’s latest method to communicate with family members of deployed soldiers and airmen really clicked.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Dunbar led what was dubbed an “e-town hall” for families June 25 from here at the offices of the Joint Force Headquarters.
As many as 60 family members took part in the roughly hour-long online chat, which ran the gamut from questions about equipment and redeployment to operational security concerns and care packageeas.
Dunbar was surrounded by five laptops and several other service members, who helped moderate the session and provide answers to questions. The tempo was quick as questions were posted and answers composed in real time.
“How are you holding up with the deployment?” Dunbar asked early in the session. “I know it can be very tough when your soldier/airman is deployed.” One family member replied that technology allowed for greater opportunities to communicate, which was making this deployment easier to deal with.
The online town hall session is one of the methods the Wisconsin National Guard is using to communicate with internal and external audiences. The organization has also launched a new website, http://dma.wi.gov, that includes news and deployment updates as well as job postings and flag lowering announcements, and offers visitors the ability to subscribe to receive email or text messages when information is updated.
The public affairs office also recently launched a Flickr photo sharing site, http://www.flickr.com/wiguardpics, and the Wisconsin Family Program hosts a private Flickr site, accessible by invitation only, that gives family members a safe place to share photos with other families and their soldier or airman.
Maj. Jackie Guthrie, public affairs director for the Wisconsin National Guard, said social media tools such as online chats and Flickr are the methods by which many soldiers and airmen communicate today, and meeting them where they are talking is one way to ensure they are getting important information.
“We continue to explore other social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and may launch sites in the future,” Guthrie said. “Our goal is to maximize the use of technology to get messages to our audiences wherever they are and in the format that they prefer. These mediums also increase two-way communications so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
This was underscored by comments during the online town hall, which revealed that some family members live hours away from their family support groups and consequently don’t feel like they are always receiving the most current information.
The online session allowed one participant to learn how to contact the American Red Cross to get a message to a deployed family member in case of an emergency.
An online poll at the end of the session indicated everyone who participated found the experience valuable. The next family chat is being planned for September.
Wisconsin National Guard
Wisconsin National Guard