Al ASAD, Iraq -- While life at Al Asad could be a lot worse, there are still many luxuries service members are forced to go without. For many, one of these is a consistent form of communication to loved ones back home.
The Marines with Marine Attack Squadron 513, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, are attempting to remedy that problem by building their own Internet cafe inside a bunker located on the south side of the base, March 22.
"The center is a great way to increase the morale of the squadron," said 1st Lt. Kevin P. Kearny, intelligence and computer officer, VMA-513. "With this center, Marines from our unit will be able to contact loved ones through e-mails and keep them in good spirits."
Although several locations were looked at to hold this new Internet cafe, it will be held in the same bunker that houses VMA-513's administration shop.
"We picked this bunker because it had the extra space and since that's where I work, it was easier to set up the computer hub," said Cpl. Justin W. Schaeffer, aviation information specialist, VMA 513. "The computers that we are setting up are extra (Navy-Marine Corps Intranet) computers that we brought with us from Yuma."
The Internet cafe will be open to any Marine or sailor from the squadron with an existing account.
"We decided to put together the center because most work spaces have only a few computers connected to the network due to limited (computer) addresses," said Schaeffer, a native of Bethlehem, Pa. "The computers that are in the work stations are always being used for work purposes, which limits many junior Marines' ability to check their e-mail. With this center, it will be a lot easier for them to e-mail their friends and family."
The Internet cafe will offer more to Marines than just allowing them the simple ability to e-mail home.
"The center will allow the 513 Marines to do online banking, order items online or just surf the Internet," said Kearny, a native of Wenatchee, Wash.
According to Schaeffer, the Internet cafe will also provide a place for the Marines of VMA-513 to relax.
"We are going to try and supply video games and are in the process of getting a voice-over (computer program)," said Schaeffer. "This program will allow Marines to call family and friends from the computers. Sometimes just writing home isn't enough. Sometimes you need to hear the voice of a loved one."
The main reason for the Internet cafe is to keep the morale of the unit high and bring a few creature comforts from home to Al Asad.
"Morale tends to lag and fall while deployed away from home and that hurts the unit as a whole," said Kearny. "We hope that this center will keep the Marines spirits high and keep them working efficiently."
According to Lance Cpl. Norma G. Valadezmagno, flight equipment technician, VMA-513, the Internet café will make it easier for Marines to communicate with loved ones back home which will also relieve stress.
"With the Internet center in the bunker, it will be closer to the work stations of the squadron Marines which will make it easier for us to use it," said Valadezmagno, a native of Santa Barbara, Calif. "With the Internet center opened, we won't have to wait in long lines to use the Internet and that will make all the Marines feel a little better."
With the Marines of VMA-513 being deployed to Al Asad for the next six months, keeping the Marines' spirits high and making the deployment easier for the Marines is a top priority, according to Kearny.
"We want to make this deployment as easy as possible for our Marines," said Kearny. "We want the transition from the states to here to be as smooth as possible. We want our Marines to enjoy themselves out here, deployments should be a new experience, not a hated one."