Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Fred Gray IV
Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) are taking advantage of an opportunity to connect with friends and family while forward deployed.
The United Through Reading (UTR) program offers Sailors a chance to record videos of themselves reading books so that they can send home to their loved ones.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be able to help connect Sailors to their loved ones,” said Cryptological Technician (Technical) 1st Class Javonna Gregory, UTR coordinator aboard Stennis, from Jacksonville, Fla.
Gregory said that just seeing the smiles on the Sailors’ faces after they are done reading is priceless, and it also makes running the program a very rewarding experience.
The recording sessions are 30 minutes long, and Sailors can schedule appointments on a sign-up sheet located outside the ship’s museum every Sunday. Sailors are limited to one recording session per day but can sign up for as many sessions as they want throughout the month.
“It’s a good way to give back to both the families and the Sailors,” said Information Technician 1st Class Thaddeus Boyd, a UTR volunteer and participant, from Brooklyn, N.Y.
The books read during the recording session are mailed home along with the DVD for the families to enjoy.
“It’s a great way to bond while on deployment,” said Yeoman 2nd Class Silvia Newkirk, from Gainesville, Fla. “I’m happy to have that connection with my son, especially because he is still learning to read and write.”
“If you have a family member in the hospital, or just want someone to hear your voice, then yes, definitely sign up,” said Gregory.
More than 100 Stennis Sailors sign-up each month to record videos to stay connected to their families and friends back home.
The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG), consisting of Stennis, Carrier Air Wing 9, Destroyer Squadron 21, and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) are forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility to strengthen regional partnerships, sustain maritime security, and support combatant commander requirements for assets in the area.
Naval Air Crewman (Helicopter) 1st Class Nathaniel Edwards, part of the search and rescue unit of the Eightballers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8, from Ironton, Mo., participates in the United Through Reading program. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Fred Gray IV/Released)