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New Social Networking Web Site dedicated to Air Force Members, Their Families

LOS ANGELES AFB, Los Angeles, Calif. -- Members of the Air Force family here now have a new Air Force community Web site similar to popular networking sites that will meet their social and informational needs.

The official community Web site of the Air Force, http://www.usafservices.com, enables Air Force users, including married and single Airmen, spouses, children, Air Force civilians and retirees, to socialize through the use of private or public chats.

"The features of this Web site will enable many social networking functions just as effectively as commercial sites," said Col. Anita Latin, 61st Air Base Wing commander. Users can join networks or create forums ranging in topics from deployed spouse support to families with special needs.

One particular feature, "My Journal" under the "Share" tab, functions similarly to Facebook, allowing users to invite friends, join groups and post photos or videos. They can also add friends, send messages and update their personal profiles to notify others about themselves. Like commercial sites, users can restrict access allowing only those known to them to view their information and post messages.

"The launch of this site specifically dedicated to our Air Force family couldn't have come at a more opportune time, especially for Los Angeles Air Force Base," Colonel Latin said. "With members working here but living as far away from the base as Rosamond or San Diego, we need a site like this to help bond our community. The site will also be an excellent venue for our families and deployed personnel to exchange information, nurture relationships and maintain contact with one another."

Active duty, retirees, Reservists, Guardsmen, Department of Defense employees and others who are enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System may register as users on the site. The Web site does not require the use of a common access card; but under optimized security measures, users can create a unique account username and a 15 character password according to Ms. Eliza Nesmith, Airmen and Family Services chief. Despite increased security measures, the site will be accessible from government and personal computers, she added.

Officials aren't just optimistic based on the site's popularity, but also by feedback received regarding its functionality.
"The new Web site is going to be very exciting and useful for Airmen and their families," Ms. Nesmith said. "We have about 2,200 users who are using the site right now, from an initial 600."

Although Airmen and families may be surprised by the absence of Air Force Crossroads, officials emphasized this important capability will continue to exist under the new domain.

Air Force officials weighed the decision to discontinue GI Mail. Over the past few years, officials have noticed the feature was an important tool for families to stay in touch, while others used it for their official mail or even to pay bills. "We are very sensitive to drawing down that capability ... but the social networking and contact with family during a deployment is going to be an easy and important part of usafservices.com," Ms. Nesmith said.

While there is no capability or contact list link between Air Force Crossroads/GI Mail and the new Web site, users can click on the Webmaster link to solicit help.

"Once Airmen and their families get accustomed to using the Web site, they will find that it is a very user-friendly site that will give them much more flexibility than they have had on similar Web sites," Ms. Nesmith said. "During this Year of the Air Force Family, we really want to take a look at policies and procedures, and see what we can do better. This is one of them."

Senior leaders have designated July 2009 through July 2010 as the Year of the Air Force Family, maintaining their commitment and attention to Airmen and their families as a top priority. Airmen and Family Support is one of the four pillars on which the Year of the Air Force Family is built, including Health and Wellness, Education, Development and Employment and Airman and Family Housing.