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DefenseWeb uses Second Life to connect Army families, resources

San Diego-based DefenseWeb Technologies Inc., a custom software developer and systems integrator for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and other federal government agencies, recently launched the Army OneSource virtual community.

The first private, secure, computer-based environment of its kind created in the Linden Lab Second Life platform provides information, service and much-needed outreach to service members’ families not located near bases.

“With the Army OneSource Community in the Second Life virtual world, geographically dispersed soldiers serving abroad or here at home and their families have an interactive alternative to access information and resources, stay connected and build a strong support community,” Cy Calvo, project manager at DefenseWeb, said in a statement.

“The higher training rotations as well as the rapid and extended deployments many of our service members face today mean more dependents are not always physically located near a military installation. This program can enable them to meet within an environment that they are already familiar with and comfortable using in order to link up with the right Army service department as well as other family members in similar situations to offer support and friendship.”

The virtual world facilitates interactive social networking and learning through E-learning and collaboration tools, computer-based training, live media streaming, joining or creating special interest groups, participating in and holding special events, and training and outreach services.

Army OneSource members gain access to the virtual installation through the Army OneSource web portal.

Once soldiers and family members register, they can log into the environment to create and customize their own digital persona, known as an avatar. Using the avatar, participants can navigate the community and communicate with others via text or voice chat.

A number of meeting spaces have been developed in support of the installation including the Exchange Plaza, Parade Field, Family Medical Center, Army OneSource Community Center, Fitness Center, Historical Museum, Outdoor Amphitheater, Vehicle Test Range and Wild Life Refuge.

“One of the unique features is the Survivor Community, an invitation-only area created for family members of soldiers who lost their lives that provides them an online support network with other family members of soldiers who have died,” Tonya Bowers, vice president of military family programs for DefenseWeb, said in a written statement. “Dedicated spaces and activities within this special section support a variety of interests, including a Soldier Tribute monument for lost loved ones, a main lodge with a lobby and large meeting space, a crafts and quilt project room, a library and book club and a non-denominational chapel for reflection and meditation.”

Bowers said the overwhelming positive response by soldiers and their families so far means other similar social media initiatives are likely to come about in the near future.

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