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USAFServices.com launches new Air Force community Web site

WASHINGTON -- Air Force officials have launched a new Web site to meet social and informational needs of Airmen, civilians, retirees and their families.

The entire Air Force family: all Airmen, married and single; spouses; children; Air Force civilians; and retirees are invited to log on to http://www.usafservices.com, the official community Web site of the Air Force. The Web site enables users to add friends, send messages, and update their personal profiles to notify family and friends about themselves.

Registered users will find the site allows for real-time socializing through the use of private or public chats according to Mrs. Eliza Nesmith, Airmen and family services chief. Officials aren't just optimistic based on the site's popularity, but also by feedback received regarding its functionality.

Additionally, users can join networks or create forums ranging in topics from deployed spouse support to families with special needs. Registered users will find that the site allows for real-time socializing through the use of private or public chats, Ms. Nesmith added.

"The new Web site is going to be very exciting and useful for Airmen and their families," said Ms. Nesmith. "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.

Airmen will see advantages of the new site, particularly the new social networking feature, Ms. Nesmith said. The feature called "My Journal", under the "Share" tab functions similar to Facebook allows registered users to invite friends, join groups, and post photos or videos. Like commercial sites, users can restrict access allowing only those known to them to view their information and post messages.

Another feature enables users to join or create forums ranging in topics from deployed spouse support to families with special needs. 

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. 

Users will notice that 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, Ms. Nesmith said.

Despite increased security measures, the site will be accessible from government and personal computers, she added.

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, noting a messaging feature, forums and a real-time.

While there is no capability or contact list link between Air Force Crossroads/GI Mail and the new usafservices.com 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.
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