Students communicate with soldiers through Skype

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Students speak to Master Sergeant Gregory Betty through Skype. Students of Ms. Betty Denton’s Global History and Geography II class had the opportunity to speak to a soldier in Afghanistan and learn about the daily life of a soldier.

Rebecca Herz, Staff Writer

The sound of air traffic and sights of sand and military uniforms were only an arm’s length away from seven sophomores participating in a Skype conference with soldiers in Afghanistan. On May 29, Skype connected otherwise disparate lives when Ms. Shantay Betty-Denton’s Global History and Geography II class spoke with her brother, Master Sergeant Gregory Betty.

After students showed interest in learning more about Master Sergeant Betty, a master sergeant in the 2-310th Infantry Regiment, 174th Infantry Brigade, Ms. Betty Denton arranged for students to use the video-chatting equipment in the conference room. Students prepared questions to which Master Sergeant Betty and four others in his brigade gave answers and feedback.

“Skype wasn’t available when my brother was first deployed, and it would have been great to be able to talk to him,” said Ms. Denton.

When he was first deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm, Master Sgt. Betty was not much older than the students with whom he video chatted. Now he has 49 companies entrusted under his charge.

Students asked questions about everything from “Are U.S. soldiers a welcome presence in Afghanistan?” to “When do you work out?”

Through the video conference, students learned about soldiers’ daily routines and living conditions, and also received information about joining the military when they are older.

“The military has changed me in that it made me more responsible and in-touch with the world around me,” said Master Sergeant Betty.

After this exchange, there was still time for casual conversation about the soldiers’ diets and exercise regimens.

“Right now we’re on an operating base with 24-hour feedbacks so we have a place to eat all of the time if we want. But when we’re in the desert, not on a base, we use the Meals Ready-to-Eat,” said Master Sergeant Betty. “We work out two hours a day in the morning—we have a full gym. We also have yoga.”

Teachers and administrators plan to use Skype for this sort of lesson in the future.

“Our goal is to connect the students,” said Principal Mr. Ira Pernick. “Maybe the next step is to create liaisons between colleges and universities and the students who want to learn more about them, or maybe Skype can even work to make ties between classrooms at Schreiber and others around the world.”