DALLAS – Shortly after the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service was inundated with calls from everyday Americans who wanted to know how they could help our troops. After seeking and receiving the required authorization from the Department of Defense in April 2004, AAFES embarked on an ambitious plan to deliver military Exchange Global Prepaid Phone cards to U.S Military men and women serving in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Today, as troops dial home for the holidays to connect with family and friends, the program, dubbed “Help Our Troops Call Home,” is nearing the $3 million mark.
“We’re inspired by the outpouring of support the American public has provided the ‘Help Our Troops Call Home’ initiative,” said AAFES’ Chief of Corporate Communications Lt. Col. Debra Pressley. “The effort has raised $2,758,711 in just 20 months.”
AAFES traditionally sees interest in troop support initiatives peak during the holidays. In fact, nearly half of the 111,899 cards issued so far were purchased in December 2004. “’Tis the season to remember the troops,” said Pressley. “Fortunately, the outpouring of support coincides with the time of year that troops need it the most.”
Last month, minutes used at the 70 phone centers AAFES operates on secure military installations throughout Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom crept up 6 percent to 14.5 million minutes. Last year, usage spiked 46 percent from 10.7 million minutes in November to 15.7 million minutes in December. If 2004 is any indication, AAFES expects deployed troops to surpass 20 million minutes a month before 2005 comes to a close.
Each 550-Unit Military Exchange Global Prepaid Phone card, available at www.aafes.org or 800-527-2345, provides 183 minutes of calling time from Iraq, Afghanistan or Kuwait to the United States. To meet the requirement of calls placed just in December 2004; AAFES would need to issue 85,792 phone cards in just 30 days.
“I believe last year’s figures illustrate how great the need is,” said Pressley. “Although, more than 100,000 phone cards have been distributed in less than two years, we know that ‘Help Our Troops Call Home’ has just scratched the surface.”
Any American can make a direct impact on troop morale with a Military Exchange Global Prepaid Phone Card by logging on to www.aafes.org and clicking on the “Help Our Troops Call Home” logo or calling 800-527-2345. From there, the phone cards are sent to individual Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors or Marines (designated by the purchaser) or distributed to “any service member” through the American Red Cross, Air Force Aid Society, Fisher House or USO.
“We’re looking forward to surpassing the $3 million mark in a big way,” said Pressley. “It is our hope that the holidays will direct thoughts to those who will be so far from home. During this very special time of year, the purchase of phone cards designed for the specific needs of deployed service members is the most effective way to bridge the gap between the front lines and the home front.”
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is a joint command of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, and is directed by a Board of Directors who is responsible to the Secretaries of the Army and the Air Force through the Service Chiefs of Staff. AAFES has the dual mission of providing authorized patrons with articles of merchandise and services and of generating non-appropriated fund earnings as a supplemental source of funding for military Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs. To find out more about AAFES' history and mission, please visit our web site at http://www.aafes.com/pa/default.asp.