By Sgt. David Hodge
1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
BAGHDAD - Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers have a new place to "surf the net" and call family and friends at home thanks to the individual efforts of a 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division non-commissioned officer deployed to Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad's Rashid District.
The "Raider" Brigade's Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Gonzalez, the communications NCO in charge for the 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., unveiled 20 desktop computers, eight phones and five webcams at the Falcon Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility, Sept. 16, 2008.
With only two small internet cafes on the forward operating base, there were enough Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors to warrant another, said Gonzalez.
Before the 1st BCT began its current mission to support the security and stability of the Rashid District in southern Baghdad, the previous unit began construction of wooden cubicles for the internet and phones but was unable to complete the café before redeploying, stated Gonzalez.
Due to the number of units who operate from FOB Falcon, Gonzalez said he immediately recognized the need for an additional internet café upon his arrival and spearheaded the effort after initial operations began to slow down.
"I did not have the opportunity to begin work on the internet café upon arriving in Baghdad," said Gonzalez, a San Antonio native. "Finally, in July, we started work on it."
Gonzalez coordinated a convoy across southern Baghdad to pick up the equipment at another FOB and then returned to the Falcon MWR to set it up.
Since the civilian workers at the MWR cannot be held accountable, Gonzalez said he decided to take full responsibility for the $35,000 of equipment. Signing for the expensive equipment also provides him ample reason to regularly visit the café.
"Every day I see more and more Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors utilizing the free internet," Gonzalez explained. "It's good to finally see it up and running."
The internet café allows the Soldiers to keep in touch with their families, said Phyllis Ward, Falcon MWR supervisor.
"We like to offer many things for the Soldiers," explained Ward, who hails from Waynesville, Mo. "When Soldiers are away from home, they like to be able to know what is going on in their family's life."
Since the MWR has opened, the internet café has assisted more than 300 service members, said Ward.
"This internet café is very convenient," said Pfc. John Beckett, a multi-channel transmission systems operator from Buffalo, N.Y., assigned to Company B, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div. "I don't have a computer, so I visit two or three times each week."
This work, NCO builds new internet cafe for Raider MWR, by SGT David Hodge, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.