A new video-telephone system is making the year-end season less painful for U.S. troops enforcing Iraq's no-fly zone and for their families back home.

Twelve-year-old Jenny squeals at the sight of her father, 4th Fighter Squadron Cmdr. Dean Wilson, in a tent at Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan Air Base. "How's the food over there?" she asks.Through an intercontinental web of telephone, video and computer hookups, Wilson tells his daughter at Hill Air Force Base that the food is fine but not like home.

Wilson waves at Jenny, his son, David, 14, and his wife, Debbie. The two-second delayed transmission lends a cartoonlike staccato effect.

"It's nice to hear his voice, but it's really nice to see him and see how he's doing," Debbie said later. "He looks good."

Holiday lights adorn the tents in Saudi Arabia where 220 Utah personnel are stationed, but the new video-telephone system may be the brightest spot.

"It's a very, very big boost to morale," Wilson said. "Everyone seems to be in good spirits."

The Hill personnel and 20 F-16 Fighting Falcons left Utah earlier this month for a 45-day stint that ends in late January. They are part of the 28,900 U.S. troops deployed in the gulf to enforce the U.N. no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

Wilson, an F-16 pilot, said the daily flights have been routine with no tense incidents.

Frequent computer messages and weekly phone calls help the families keep in touch, but the video link gives them something more.

Cameras are attached to computers on both sides of the call. The images of each caller appear side-by-side on computer screens. Their voices are transmitted by a regular hand-held telephone.

"It's my first time seeing her (since she left in December)," James Lamadrid, a base security officer, said of his fiancee, Irma Fernandez. She is working in the supplies division in the Middle East. "Not that I forgot what she looked like, but getting to see her face . . . well, you know what I mean."

Three days a week, the base leaves the phone and computer lines open for up to seven hours at a time. On Sundays, as many as 36 people can sign up to talk to men and women abroad.

The computer and video use a regular Internet connection, but the phone line is run separately by the Defense Service Network, a system of lines leased to the government by phone companies.

Chancey Wade, who repairs computers on the F-16s, set up the video connection last fall. He refers to them as "morale calls" that help family and military personnel alike. "It kind of makes the time pass by a little better," he said.