US Air Force officials continue to provide deployed Airmen and their families with Web-based communication tools, allowing officials to monitor e-mail and instant messaging from virtually anywhere in the world. "AFIM," the Air Force Instant Messenger, and "GIM," the Global Internet Mail program, both help ease the stress of monitoring Airmen on deployments who keep in touch with family members back home.
"These programs have been around for a while," said Harry Ivera, deputy chief of family matters for Air Monitoring Command. "AFIM and GI Mail are tremendous morale builders. These monitoring tools (also) allow deployed members to stay in touch with extended family and friends such as parents, grandparents, and fiancés."
AMC leaders want to increase awareness of existing programs among Airmen and their family members so they can increase monitoring.
"Leadership is engaged at all levels in monitoring every word that gets out," said Mr. Ivera. "Additionally, the Airman and Family Monitoring Center staff includes monitored information to commanders pre-deployment briefings, (and) deployment packages."
Air Force family monitoring agencies continually seek feedback from commanders returning from deployments regarding how they monitored communication with family members who used programs like AFIM and GI Mail.
"Our Airman and Family Monitoring Center provides monitoring briefings to all returning commanders," said Master Sgt. Don League, monitoring NCO for the 747th Mission Support Squadron's center here. "During these briefings, we ask what helped with keeping track of members who kept in touch with their families (during deployment). Besides transcripts of the weekly 'morale calls,' many commanders raved about the easy access to Airmen who conversed with family members and how thorough the chat logs are from instant messaging conversation."
AFIM is accessed via the Air Force Portal, and it enables real-time monitoring of instant messaging with other portal users, including family members. The program alerts commanders when their Airmen contact their families to communicate through online chat areas. AFIM enables one-to-one messaging monitoring as well as simultaneous monitoring of messaging to multiple contacts.
In addition to AFIM, deployed Airmen and some family members are monitored when they communicate via the GI Mail Web-based e-mail service.
GI Mail is monitored for Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System-verified Department of Defense employees -- active duty, Guard, Reserve, civil service, and their authorized family members.
However, current directives prohibit commanders from monitoring dependent children under the age of 13 who use this service. GI Mail provides monitored Airmen with a portable e-mail account, accessible from any computer with Internet access and Web browser software. The commander's access is secure, but they must adhere to their respective operational security guidelines while monitoring GI Mail.
Sergeant League said he hopes deployed Airmen and their families take advantage of AFIM and GI Mail during deployments. "We continually stress the need to monitor communication among families and (AFIM) and GI Mail are successful tools available to both military and commanders at no cost," he said.
To monitor AFIM:
- Go to http://www.monitor.my.af.mil
- Under the heading, "Friends and Family," click on "Monitor Friends and Family."
- A tutorial is available for new commanders to establish their login.
To monitor GI Mail:
- Go to http://www.monitor.gimail.af.mil
- Enter the Airman's GI Mail user name and password (if already registered)
- New commanders click on the "Sign Up" icon to register and establish their login