Virginia National Guard and NTELOS help center connect military families during wartime
SALEM, Va. - Today, two soldiers stationed in Kuwait were able to call home and talk to their loved ones as part of a cooperative effort between the Virginia National Guard, NTELOS and the Military Family Support Center. What’s more – the calls didn’t cost the families a cent! These were the first two calls of many more to come.
The Defense Department’s military phone network – the Defense Switched Network (DSN) – has been extended by the Virginia National Guard to the Military Family Support Center so that troops from around the world can dial seven digits – 438-5675 - and access through the Center attendant NTELOS’ call transfer and toll-free long distance services to reach their families.
By regulation, each service member serving in a war zone is allowed two 15-minute Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) calls each week using the DSN. Until now, calls were normally restricted to the local calling radius of a military installation. Using DSN, a troop would call a military installation and ask for the operator to connect them to their family’s number. Depending on the volume of calls, operators would then transfer the call to the local number, but were restricted from making a long distance call due to long distance charges and payment issues. Since most military members live outside the local calling areas of a diminishing number of military installations, the MWR allowance has historically gone unused.
Gene Carter, executive director of the Center, said, “At a time when our military families are feeling increased pressure as a result of the War on Terror and other challenges at home resulting from their separation, it is important that we make every effort to improve the communication between family members to help maintain and enhance the integrity of the family unit.”
“The National Guard is 100% behind finding ways to enhance the communications between separated family members,” said Maj. Leslie Myers, family program director for the Virginia National Guard, “and this is an option we were happy to pursue with the Center. Families are a high priority for the National Guard and I encourage service members to stay connected.”
Dan Overstreet, director of sales with NTELOS, added, “We realized the importance of the Center’s mission over a year ago, and NTELOS has provided them with communications support since their opening day. This is just another step in the right direction of saying thanks to our troops and their families for their sacrifice.”
Even though the National Guard has provided the DSN connection, members from any branch of service can use the connection to make their MWR calls. Calls are currently limited to the Center hours – Mondays and Thursdays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern time.
“Our next step is to enlist volunteers who would be willing to transfer calls from their homes. Incoming calls will be routed to the home where volunteers would transfer them to the families. We hope to have 24/7 operation within the next six months as more people express their gratitude to the troops by volunteering to support them in this critical way,” said Carter.
The Military Family Support Center is a 501(c)(3) charity established to care for the families of our deployed military who live outside the support perimeter of a military installation. It accomplishes this by connecting the needs of the families to the expressions of gratitude from their community in the form of service and monetary donations. Their web address is www.milfamily.org and toll-free phone number is 1-866-Y-Thank-U. Their local number is 540-400-8301. DSN: 438-5675
The Virginia National Guard has two missions. In addition to its state mission to provide units to assist civil authorities in protecting life and property and preserving peace, order, and public safety during periods of natural or man-made disaster; the Virginia National Guard supports the federal government as it provides trained and equipped units to augment the active Army and Air Force during times of war, national emergency, or Presidential Selected Reserve Call-up.
NTELOS is a leading provider of wireless and wireline communications services to consumers and businesses in Virginia and West Virginia under the NTELOS brand name. The company concentrates on providing services to meet the current and future communications needs of customers. Its wireless operations are composed of an NTELOS branded retail business and a wholesale business that operates under an exclusive contract with Sprint Nextel Corp. Founded in 1897, the company’s wireline business, and its predecessor organizations, have a long history of providing exceptional telephone service in rural Virginia.