San Francisco (CNN) -- When the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, Facebook didn't exist. Today many spouses with loved ones in battle say they find the social-networking site essential.
"I check the computer every five minutes," said Melanie McNicol, 27, whose husband, Jim, deployed to Afghanistan in November.
Jim McNicol is part of the Army's 59th Mobility Augmentation Company, based in Fort Hood, Texas.
The unit has a Facebook page, which its captain routinely updates. The wall postings often provide positive reassurance for friends and family checking in on the status of troops.
Here's an example, dated December 4:
"You should be proud of amazing work your Soldiers have done. We should be able to settle into a more predicable schedule soon. ..."
The Army has fully embraced social networking for military families. On its official page, it asks users for stories "about how social networking has kept you connected to your loved ones."
The responses were universally positive.
"It has made all the difference in the world!!!!! (I cannot) express how much having contact like this has meant to all of our family while our soldier serves in Afghanistan," one military spouse wrote.
Melanie McNicol said she exchanges messages with her husband almost daily but said the unit's Facebook page gives her added peace of mind, especially over the holidays.
"It's been really awesome. It's really nice knowing what they're doing," she said. "If they went on a mission, we'll find out how they're doing."
McNicol said that another Army spouse told her it's been "the easiest deployment yet because they can hear what's going on. She's gone through four deployments."