Students meet soldiers in Iraq through teleconference

Published 6:00 am Monday, May 18, 2009

A recent face–to–face teleconference with U.S. soldiers at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq was an exciting event for some gifted education students at Montevallo Middle School.

The students asked many questions and the soldiers gave frank and sometimes humorous answers.

“This was a wonderful experience,” said Lanelle Wood, the gifted education specialist at MMS. “It was my privilege to have a part in coordinating the event for the students.”

The conference, via satellite, was accomplished through the cooperative efforts of the America Calls Foundation, Shelby County Technologists, MMS principal Dr. Vanassa Nason and MMS personnel.

“What time is it there,” asked one student.

It was 10 a.m. in the classroom, but the answer from Iraq was 6:15 p.m.

“What’s the weather like,” asked another student.

“Temperatures vary from 120 degrees in the daytime to cold at night,” one soldier said.

When asked the purpose of their being in Iraq, the soldiers responded, “We are serving our country by trying to provide more peaceful environments for others to live, and we will stay here until the war is over.”

Among other things, the students learned that our soldiers live in two–man tents, they miss their family and friends, the food is “pretty good,” they do have grits for breakfast sometimes, and that their guns are in their hands unless they are in the shower.

Sand storms are frequent in Iraq; a storm interrupted communications on the day of the teleconference, but both the students and soldiers were patient in waiting for a lull in the storm to continue talking and seeing images of each other.

Wood explained that in preparation for the conference Air National Guardsman SSgt. David Bensinger, who had just returned from serving in Iraq, visited with the students and guided them in planning the appropriate questions.

An outcome of the teleconference is a wonderful project created by those participating students. They are requesting and collecting donated items for care packages to be sent to U.S. soldiers at Al Asad Airbase. For information about making donations or to contribute toward the postage expense, please email Lanelle Wood [].

Catherine Legg can be reached at