Military to get priority Google Voice accounts

Within 24 hours of sending a request, active military members will get the service that lets users assign a single number to ring their home, work, and cell phones.

Staying in touch with family and friends can be a challenge for military staffers, especially those serving overseas. With its latest campaign, Google is trying to help.

Google will now offer priority Google Voice accounts to active members of the service, according to the company's official blog. Military staffers with .mil addresses will receive Google Voice invites within 24 hours after requesting them, says Tuesday's blog, written by U.S. Army Sergeant Dale Sweetnam.

In his guest blog, Sweetnam, who works with Google on the U.S. Army's "Training with Industry" program, explained the problem of trying to call military staff overseas.

"I spent 13 months in Iraq as an Army journalist where I flew in Black Hawks over Balad and Baghdad working to generate news coverage about my fellow soldiers," writes Sweetnam. "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."

Using the free Google Voice service, military staffers can set up a single phone number that will automatically ring any phone and also receive voice mail as text transcriptions. Family and friends need only keep track of that one number, a benefit for personnel who may jump from one location to another. People can also dial the Google Voice number to leave voice mail for soldiers serving overseas, which are then retrieved from mobile trailers with Internet access.

Any active U.S. service member with a .mil email address can sign up for a free account at the Google Voice invitations for military personnel page.

"I signed up for an account when I came to Google, and it's already making communications much easier here in the States" writes Sweetnam. "I know when I return to combat, Google Voice will help make life a little more manageable."

Google Voice had been available only to users of GrandCentral, the service that Google took over in 2007 and transformed into Google Voice. The service was recently opened up to a greater number of people. Still, requests for a Google Voice number can take a long time to fill, which is why a 24-hour response time is a big benefit for military personnel.

Google Voice has also been in the news lately over Apple's refusal to okay a mobile version of the service for the iPhone. Apple's snub prompted a stern letter from the FCC asking Apple and AT&T to explain their actions.

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