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DoDEA Office of Communications

For Immediate Release — May 3, 2007 | HQ
: DoDDS-Europe, Public Affairs Officer | DSN 338-7612

WIESBADEN, GERMANY — May 3, 2007 — Military service members deployed to war zones will be able to view their seniors crossing the stage and moving their tassels from right to left via live webcasts on graduation day.

The Department of Defense Dependents Schools - Europe; United States Army, Europe; 5th Signal Command; United States Air Forces in Europe; Combined Joint Task Force 76 -Afghanistan; Multi-National Coalition - Iraq; and World Television Services have combined assets, talents, and technologies to enable the live broadcasts via the Internet. The effort will allow 18 graduation ceremonies to be viewed by nearly 100 deployed parents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and other locations around the world.

The first graduation ceremony is expected to be webcast on June 7. Eight graduation ceremonies will take place simultaneously on June 8, dubbed "Super Friday," by those involved. The last ceremony will be webcast on the evening of June 15. Schools identified as participants in the graduation webcasts, thus far, are AFNorth, Ansbach, Aviano, Bamberg, Bitburg, Hanau, Heidelberg, Hohenfels, Kaiserslautern, Lajes, Lakenheath, Mannheim, Patch, Ramstein, Vicenza, Vilseck, Wiesbaden and Wurzburg. However, additional schools can be added through May 18 if a senior's parent is unexpectedly deployed.

Using emerging web technologies, deployed parents will be able to see their graduating senior cross the stage and view student messages recorded for the occasion.

The collective effort is intended to give graduating students and deployed parents the opportunity to share in this once in a lifetime event.

This is the fourth year the effort has been undertaken. Diana Ohman, Director DoDDS-Europe, who has been very involved with each of the yearly webcasts, says that although it is a monumental technical challenge, these webcasts are emotionally significant to the student and the deployed parent. "There is no room for error. It is too important. It is important to the graduating senior that he or she be able to share the event with their parents, as well as for the deployed parent to be able to view their son or daughter crossing the stage."

Collecting data for this year's webcast began in January. Seniors who had, or anticipated having parents deployed at graduation, were identified through the high schools. A list of schools with deployed parents and other specifics was forwarded to USAREUR where contracts were written and the immense coordination process began.

Last week, German contractor World Television Services was awarded the contract to provide technical support for the webcasts.

Kenneth Bilbo, HQ USAREUR G6, one of the initial planners, said, "With the contract awarded, we can now being site surveys and establishing and testing connectivity, and telling the parent downrange what to expect."

Angela Fobbs, from 5th Signal Command, who has lead the project for four years, notes, "The next few weeks are going to be busy and we expect changes and alterations right up to the last minute of the last graduation ceremony. But," she adds, "when you see the faces of the graduating seniors, listen to their recorded and live messages, and read the responses from the parents, it becomes real obvious that this is a good and worthwhile effort."

Each high school is also being paired with the signal battalion in its geographical area as a means of backup and additional support. The local signal battalions will help where possible and provide technical assistance where needed.

In the days to come, World Television Services will begin testing audio and video feeds between each graduation site and the dozens of receiving locations down range.

Initially, contact information for deployed or deploying parents of graduates was collected through each of the DoDDS-Europe high schools. This information will now be used to notify deployed or deploying parents of graduating seniors when webcast Internet sites are online. They will also be provided logon and password information.

Deployed or deploying parents who have not been contacted by May 15 should contact the DoDDS-Europe Public Affairs Office, or they can have their graduating student contact their school principal.