I remember as a kid riding past one of the Basic training areas on Ft. Knox (back when there was a bootcamp there) and seeing lines of soldiers standing at a series of pay phones. It was a moving image of just how much the soldiers wanted to check in with home. They would stand and stand and stand until they got the chance to say hello–to hear a loved one’s voice. I’ll always remember that picture of love.
Fast-forward 10 years later and my husband became one of those soldiers in need of a chance to use the phone. But in the world of cell phones, long lines of pay phones aren’t really necessary at Basic Training. (Fun fact: I do see phone stations on post still…But they’re always empty).
A quick disclaimer: policies stated in this post can vary depending upon the platoon, as cell phone usage is completely dependent upon the Drill Sergents’ discretion in each platoon. So anything you see here regarding the frequency of calls is DEFINITELY subject to change.
Cell Phones At Drop-off
First off– when you drop your future soldier off with the recruiter, leave his phone with him. You might have heard “he can’t have his phone at Basic” or he can’t have it when he processes. True, he can’t use it. But he can bring it with him. So definitely encourage him to take it. His phone will not get confiscated and thrown away. It will definitely get taken, but it will be held safe and secure until he is allowed to use it. SEND IT WITH HIM.
When he lands in the airport (if he flew), he might be allowed to call you. This is the infamous 30-second phone call you might have heard about. It’s just a chance for him to tell you he is okay and just landed. It’s a nice call to get.
Cell Phones At In-Processesing
Almost nobody talks about in-procesesing. In fact, I feel like I need to write a whole post on it. But basically, before your soldier begins his 10 or 14 or 16 weeks of boot camp, he has to process into the Army. For OSUT guys, for instance, this takes 7-10 days. This is the point that his cell phone will be turned in and stored away. He won’t get to use it here, but they will give it back to him when he leaves for his official Basic Training area.
Cell Phones At Basic Training
The first day of Basic Training, he will once again turn his phone in. The phones are kept locked up with the Drill Sergeants. They aren’t stored in a huge mass pile in a warehouse where your soldier will never see it again (thank goodness). It’s definitely not like having an item confiscated in an airport, never to be seen again. The Drill Sergeants keep a labeled crate of each platoon’s phones and chargers, and they bring them out at the same time when soldiers are given the chance to use them. Don’t worry about the safety of his phone–it won’t get stolen or lost.
Phone Call Frequency
The first three weeks of Basic Training (Red Phase) are the most strict. While it is extremely unlikely that your soldier will be allowed to call during this time, it is still possible. And onward from Red Phase, the likelihood of your soldier being able to call is increased. It is all according to the discretion of the Drill Sergeants. They feel under no obligation to let the soldiers call (unlike mail call, which is a regular occurrence), but they might use it as a morale booster or reward for excellent training.
During training, platoons will sometimes earn a perk for finishing the best, and often that reward is a phone call. Sometimes too, the Drill Sergeants are feeling nice and will give the soldiers their phones for a bit on Sunday, to make calls. This is why its KEY for your soldier to have brought his phone. If he doesn’t have it, he will have to ask one of his buddies to share their phone. And while a good battle buddy might do that, both soldiers will get significantly less time to talk on the phone!
Again, phone call frequency varies IMMENSELY depending on the Drill Sergeants, and even the Company’s SOP. While one platoon might get to have their cell phones 4 times during Basic Training, another platoon might only win 1 phone call, and never be given another opportunity to call besides that. It is all completely dependent upon a variety of facts that change throughout the training year (and with each Drill Sergeant). I have heard of spouses getting as many as 8 calls, while others received as little as 2.
Phone Call Length
You probably already have guessed this, but phone call length varies enormously as well (especially if your soldier is sharing a phone!) My shortest call was the 30-second one, and my longest was 3 hours. It just depends one when/why your soldier gets to call you.
Sometimes the soldiers are given their phones to make calls at the end of the night, and they don’t have to be turned back in until training the next morning. This is rare, but it is really, really nice when it does happen. Nothing is better than an all-night phone call! But if this never happens to you, don’t feel bad. Any call and every call is amazing. Length doesn’t matter once you hear their voice on the phone!!
Phone Call Privacy
Contrary to popular belief, the Drill Sergeants will not stand over the soldiers and listen to their phone calls. All calls are conducted in the bay (barracks) where the soldiers sleep. So while there isn’t total privacy, since your soldier will be surrounded by his entire platoon, he will at least have privacy from his Drill Sergeants. And to be honest, the other soldiers won’t be sitting there listening to each other’s calls–they will be too busy making there own!
The same goes for texting–the Drill Sergeants will not stand over the soldiers and read all their texts. If your soldier gets the chance to text or call you, rest assured that both of you will be able to carry on a normal conversation. Talking in a busy bay might not be the best setting for a phone call, but it beats sitting in a phone booth with a line of 20 people behind you!
- Phone calls from Basic Training are completely inconsistent, unpredictable, and amazing.
- Soldiers–TAKE YOUR PHONE to Basic Training. You’ll want it.
- Loved Ones–ANSWER EVERY CALL YOU GET. Answering unknown numbers is scary. But missing a call from your soldier is worse.
Hopefully you found some answers here regarding phone calls and cell phones at Army Basic Training. If you’re wondering about something I might have missed, please ask in the comment section below! As always, thank you for stopping by. Come back soon!
~Read next:~Army Basic Training: Letter Writing Myths~