By Air Force Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 25, 2009 - An airman assigned here witnessed the birth of his third child, and he did so without leaving his post. Instead, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rafael Garcia of the 379th Expeditionary Mission Support Group saw the birth live via webcam while his wife, Monica, was 6,000 miles away. Garcia deployed here in May from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Prior to his deployment, he took Monica back to the United States so she could be with her family during the pregnancy.
He set up a webcam link in his room so he wouldn't be left out of the preparations for the new child.
"Mainly, I was just following her status through the months," Garcia said. "She would tell me through the webcam how her doctor appointments were going. Overall, it was just like me being there."
Garcia didn't keep the impending birth a secret. His supervisor, Air Force Master Sgt. Nicolas Navarro, said Garcia told his co-workers that his wife was going to have a baby when he first arrived.
"We'd always ask at our weekly meetings how his wife was doing," said Navarro, who is deployed here from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. "It was just part of being good wingmen to make sure that his family was in good hands and everything was going smoothly."
Garcia's co-workers said they were impressed by the webcam link-up.
"I thought it was just fantastic that he was able to see his wife, even though he couldn't physically be there," Navarro said. "Staying connected accomplishes two things. If a servicemember knows their family is doing well, it makes it easier to concentrate on accomplishing the mission. And if the family knows they're fine, they worry a little less about their deployed loved one."
As the big day drew near, Garcia asked his wife to find out if the webcam could be placed in the operating room during the birth itself.
"[The hospital] tested it out on their end and said we could have the laptop there during the procedure," Garcia said. "The hospital staff said this was a first for them to have someone watch a birth using a webcam."
Monica had been scheduled for an Aug. 12 cesarean section delivery, but she went into labor earlier than expected.
"Fortunately, I was in my room already when she went into labor," Garcia said. "I always keep my computer on, and she actually contacted me through the webcam to tell me."
While Garcia waited in his room, Monica went to the hospital.
"About 45 minutes later, she called me through the webcam to tell me she was having the C-section," he said. "I stayed up through the night until almost 3 a.m. local time. I saw the whole procedure."
All went well, and their daughter, Carmella Fe, entered the world Aug. 10.
Garcia said he is grateful for the technology that allowed him to see the birth of his first daughter from across two continents.
"It was amazing; there are really no other words to explain it," he said. "I don't know how many soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines would have the opportunity to do something like this, but I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I encourage everybody to take advantage of technology if they have family functions like anniversaries or birthdays back home. This is a perfect way to stay in touch."
(Air Force Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney serves in the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing public affairs office.)