Google offers Voice product to US military members

A unified voicemail box will make life easier for deployed military members, an Army sergeant says

Google is offering its free Voice call management service to members of the U.S. military beginning Tuesday, the company said in a blog post.

Google Voice is in beta and only available to people who get an invite from Google, but with the military offer, anyone with a .mil e-mail address can get service, wrote U.S. Army Sgt. Dale Sweetnam, an Army fellow working with Google's communications team this year.

With Google Voice, users can have all calls and text messages on their mobile devices route to one voicemail box.

The service allows users to listen to voicemail messages as they're being recorded, allowing for call screening, and it allows them to place U.S.-based phone calls free. In addition, Google Voice allows users to record calls, to create conference calls, and to receive voicemail transcripts.

"It's not easy to stay in touch with friends and family when you're fighting in a country thousands of miles from home," wrote Sweetnam, who was deployed in Iraq as an Army journalist for 13 months.

"The whole experience was physically and emotionally draining, but it was especially difficult when I called home at the end of the day and nobody was there to answer."

A single number and an easy way to retrieve messages can be "invaluable" to military members constantly moving, Sweetnam added.

"When you deploy, your life is put on hold," he added. "While you live and work in a different world, everyone else moves on with life back home. Your family and friends keep moving, and this sometimes means it's just not possible for them to stay awake until 2 a.m. to receive a phone call. Calling Iraq or Afghanistan is seldom an option."

With Google Voice, a military member's family and friends can leave messages throughout the day, he added.

"When that service member visits an Internet trailer, all the messages are right there," Sweetnam said. "It's like a care package in audio form."

A Google spokeswoman said the company is not disclosing how many users Google Voice has.

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Grant Gross

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