WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 25, 2007) - The American public has sent more than 201,000 prepaid phone cards to servicemembers through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service's "Help Our Troops Call Home" program.

"Making sure our deployed troops are in a position to hear voices from home is critical to morale," AAFES Chief of Contingency Operations Lt. Col. Steven Dean said. "By working together, the American public and AAFES, through "Help Our Troops Call Home," have provided nearly $5 million in calls home since the program began in April 2004."

As a military command with a retail mission, Army and Air Force Exchange Service understands how important a phone call can be to troops serving their country far from home, AAFES officials said. In fact, the command mobilized telecommunication support for troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom as early as April 15, 2003.

"We had phone services available in those early days," Lt. Col. Dean said. "The only problem was that the complete and total lack of a preexisting telecommunications infrastructure meant the cost of a call home was 90 cents a minute."

When AAFES opened its first phone center in Iraq on June 24, 2003, the per-minute cost for a call to America dropped to 35 cents a minute. Less than 12 months later, the rate had dropped to 25 cents. By April 2004, AAFES had received Defense Department approval to do something the command had never been done before - sell exchange merchandise to "civilians" on behalf of troops serving in war zones halfway around the world.

Three years later, deployed troops are receiving rates as low as 19 cents a minute.

By logging on to www.aafes.org or calling (800) 527-2345, moms, uncles, neighbors and civic groups can take part in the "Help Our Troops Call Home" effort by sending any one of three Military Exchange Global Prepaid Phone cards, including a 550-minute denomination card capable of providing more than two hours of call time from any of 72 phone centers in operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom to the United States.

Phone cards may be sent to an individual servicemember designated by the sender or distributed to "any servicemember" through the American Red Cross, Air Force Aid Society, Fisher House Foundation, Navy-Marine Corps Relief, Soldier & Family Assistance Center, and United Service Organizations.

Page last updated Fri May 25th, 2007 at 10:08