COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It's not just a recording, it is a new way loved ones can connect with soldiers at war. For the first time, there's a toll free number. Anyone can call to get weekly updates on the 218th.
Before - families relied on a monthly newsletter and e-mail alerts. Maj. General Harry Burchstead says, "That's not going to reach 40 percent of our famlies. This is a number they know they can call if they have anxiety - what's going on?"
Nicknamed the Commander Hotline, it addresses the most serious of questions.
"We did have two South Carolina soldiers wounded this past week in a direct firefight but they are doing well," the recording notes. From Afghanistan, Brigadier General Robert Livingston brings everyone up on the mission. "Our police mentoring teams are now fully deployed throughout the country."
In addition to getting updates, listeners can leave their comments and concerns. "Some of them are very tearful," says Michelle Canchola of the Family Readiness Group. "They also leave messages of love and support for the general to hear."
The South Carolina Television Association and Cox Communications partnered to make this possible. Nancy Horne of the SC Cable Television Association says, "As long as our troops from South Carolina are deployed, we will continue to provide this service."
It's a promising pledge for families that in the past may have felt disconnected.
The toll-free number is 1-866-855-4312.