I recently fielded a question from a researcher concerning how Soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom call home. Below is the text from the request and my reply back. I thought some of you may be interested in what types of communication home we have from over here.
I work as a researcher for the journalist Adam Hanft. He has asked me to look into the US policy on phone and Internet use by active military while stationed in Iraq for contacting family; Specifically if active duty members have to pay to use those services or if they are provided free of charge.
Thank you for your time.
I can't tell you if the US military has an official policy regarding
phone and Internet use by members of the military stationed In Iraq
and Kuwait. For any official policies, you'll have to contact CENTCOM
I can however, tell you about my personal experiences in using the
Internet and phone to call home.
On this tour, I am In Kuwait. The camp I am at has 2 AT&T call
centers. From those centers, service members can use a calling card to
reach home. On average, for what would be a 100 minute card in the
States, you get about 20 minutes.
Many of the permanent party service members on this camp live in what
are called RLBs. RLB stands for Re-Locatable Building. These RLBs are
hardwired for a locally contracted pay-as-you-go internet service. In
addition to the hardwiring, wi-fi service is available from the same
contractor in the area of the RLBs and the tents where the remainder
of our troops live. If soldiers so choose, they can pay to use this
internet service with their personal computers. (Please note,
government computers are not authorized for this.) This service
provides for soldiers to email, use chat programs or internet phone
services to contact loved ones from the comfort of their own living
I personally use Skype as my internet phone service. For a very small
fee (I believe $0.02 a minute) I'm able to call my home phone from my
computer. Skype also has a free, computer to computer feature. My wife
finds it easier however for me to call her on the house phone so she's
not tied to the computer when I call.
There is a free internet cafe at my camp. There is usually a wait, and
the service isn't the fastest, but it meets the needs for basic
emailing back to the States. Another option for soldiers here is a pay
internet cafe. It has webcams and faster connections for those
soldiers without a personal computer or internet in their living area.
I have not personally used this internet cafe.
Many of us also have personal cell phones. My carrier is Watanyia.
Like the internet, it is pay as you go with scratch cards available in
different denominations. While I can call home directly from the cell
phone, it is quite pricey. Well over $1 a minute. My wife uses
international calling cards that she buys on the internet to call me
on my phone. I can also access an AT&T operator on my cell for a very
low per minute fee. This actually allows me th use an AT&T calling
card at face value to call home. This comes out to be a better deal
than using the AT&T card from the calling centers.
While deployed to Iraq in 2005 we had pretty much the same capacity to
contact home over the internet and by phone as we do here.
If you have any more questions, please fee free to ask.