Morale: Super Skype Saves Soldiers Sanity


October 16, 2007: While email and VOIP (telephone calls via the Internet) have been a tremendous boost to troop morale for Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been problems. The cheapest VOIP uses programs like Skype. But with the erratic quality of Internet service in Iraq, call quality was subject to frequent poor sound quality and broken connections. Using regular phone service was expensive, costing a dollar or two a minute. Some families were finding themselves with thousands of dollars in phone charges a month. But with over a quarter million Americans (military and civilian) in Iraq and Afghanistan, VOIP providers have come up with better, and cheaper, technology. New services, like, have brought the cost per minute down to about ten cents.

Another factor has been the way in which military families back home stay in touch with each other. Just about every unit (usually a battalion, ship or squadron) has its own Internet site, and several members who are Internet savvy. The various unit sites communicate with each other, and when some new technical development shows up, the news travels very fast. The few Internet experts on each site will help the less technically adept master the technology. Some units establish calling centers on base, where family members without high speed Internet connections can call mom or dad at an affordable rate. The high speed capability also allows the use of video calls, so everyone can see each other.

This constant contact with folks back home has noticeably reduced the incidence of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), although spouses and kids back home have had to learn to cope with the ups and downs of life in a combat zone.


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