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DALLAS -- Understanding the value of a phone call from someone familiar when troops are serving overseas, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) began its telecommunications support for troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom as early as April 15, 2003.
"We had phone services available in those early days," AAFES' chief of contingency operations, Lt. Col. Steven Dean said in a written statement. "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."
Today, through approval of the Department of Defense, the AAFES sells exchange merchandise -- including phone cards -- to civilians on behalf of troops serving overseas. Currently, rates have fallen to 0.19 cents per minute, and Americans have sent 201,578 Military Exchange Global Prepaid phone cards, including 11,491 Ship to Shore cards through AAFES' "Help Our Troops Call Home" program.
"Making sure our deployed troops are in a position to hear voices from home is critical to morale," 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."
Citizens can take part in AAFES' Help Our Troops Call Home effort by visiting www.aafes.org or calling (800) 527-2345 to send three varieties of Military Exchange Global Prepaid Phone cards, including a 550-minute denomination card that allows more than two hours of call time from any of 72 phone centers in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom to the United States.