America Supports You: Company Offers Voice Messaging
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2005 Though letters, text e-mail, and telephone calls are the most popular ways for deployed servicemembers and their families to communicate, a telecommunications company in Cleveland is offering yet another option.
Judi Bonadio, executive vice president of OnlyOne, a Cleveland telecommunications company, created a service that brings voice messages to troops stationed overseas. (Courtesy photo)
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
OnlyOne, which provides voice communication and messaging services to individuals and businesses, is using its technologies to bring servicemembers and their families together through a voice messaging service it calls "TroopTalk."
The company is providing the service through the Armed Services YMCA.
Judi Bonadio, executive vice president for the company, said the idea behind the TroopTalk is to provide servicemembers and their spouses and families a way to communicate "anytime, anywhere," just by picking up a telephone.
Each servicemember is assigned a TroopTalk account with an associated 10-digit telephone number. The spouse or family member dials the number and leaves a voice message. TroopTalk then converts the messages to an attachable voice file, and sends the voice attachment to the servicemember's e-mail. The attachment and the voice message are then played through the computer.
There is no limit to the number of messages a servicemember can receive, and callers will never hear a busy signal, she said.
Bonadio noted an example of how TroopTalk helped benefit those at home.
During a Christmas party, the discussion came up about a servicemember who was deployed, she said. "Someone remembered that this servicemember had a TroopTalk number. The party attendees called the TroopTalk number and took turns sending voice messages of love, merriment, encouragement and even a few jokes," she said.
Bonadio said although TroopTalk won't replace the "ultimate" experience of speaking to family members over the phone, the service will help those servicemembers who, due to mission requirements, may miss hearing messages from home because they do not have access to a telephone.
"Quite frankly, if a servicemember can get to talk to their family live, that's the ultimate," she said. "But what we do is bridge the gap, so that those that are left at home can pick up a phone at any time and voice their love and concern.
Another unique feature of the service is that the servicemember's TroopTalk number is accessible by as many family members and friends as care to send voice and fax messages, she said.
There is a cost for the service, which ranges from $118 per servicemember for a six-month subscription to $220 for 12 months, but Bonadio said she is hopeful she can get companies to sign up to defray the cost by sponsoring a servicemember or a unit.
"The cost is only $16.95 a month for an individual subscription; however we see our corporate donors presenting gifts of six-month subscriptions for $118 and 12-month subscriptions for $220 that are earmarked for units," she explained.
Already, several companies have promised to support TroopTalk with donations for subscriptions, she said. And the Armed Services YMCA is helping to match companies with servicemembers and units deploying overseas, she added.
Point Blank Body Armor, which makes protective vests worn by the U.S. military, and Interactive Intelligence, which provides business communications for small- to-medium-sized businesses, each have become sponsors.
Meanwhile, she said, the World Wrestling Entertainment Group has loaned the voices of several of its stars to entice callers to leave messages for TroopTalk subscribers.
Bonadio is asking that more companies come forward. Only about 100 families are currently being sponsored in the program, she said. "We would like to find more donors that could come in. It's bringing such joy to the people we are starting to set up for this service," she explained.
The focus of her company's effort, Bonadio said, is solely to help the troops and their families. She said it's important that the troops not be forgotten.
"I saw such a flurry of activity to support our troops over the holidays, now I want to make sure our troops are not forgotten. Yes, the holiday is over, but our servicemembers are still away from home. It's important for us to remember them every day".