Cell Phone Use in Army Basic Training

When and How You Can Use Your Cellular Device

Military women on cell phones
Not every platoon allows cell phone use in the US Army. Sean Murphy/The Image Bank/Getty Images

During the Army's basic military training, new recruits no longer have to leave behind what has become a standard part of life for most adults, but these boot camp–bound soldiers won't be able to use their cell phones in the same way they did in civilian life. The Army's cell phone policy for new recruits is pretty tough.

Changes new recruits can expect in their day-to-day cell phone use include not being able to carry their phones everywhere, not being allowed to send pictures or video and only being able to make audio calls, and the drill sergeant controlling every aspect of when and if a recruit can use the device—essentially the Army controls when you use your phone, how you use your phone, and oftentimes who possesses your phone when not in use.

Sergeants Dictate Cell Phone Use

Recruits in many (not all) Army basic training platoons are now allowed to use personal cell phones to call friends and families, send text messages, and update their social media status. But the use of cell phones is determined by each drill sergeant, and it is a privilege rather than a right.

Prior to the new cell phone program, well-performing platoons were often rewarded with a phone call home on Sundays. To take advantage of this, recruits would have to stand in line at pay phones and call using a calling card or call collect. Phone calls were generally limited to just a few minutes to make sure everyone in the platoon had a chance to call.

Under the new policy, cell phones are kept by the drill sergeant (DS) and returned to recruits for a period time each Sunday if the DS feels the platoon earned the privilege; of course, recruits who don't have a cell phone are still allowed to use the old pay phones, but the time allowed to make calls is still limited for all recruits regardless of method, usually to between 10 and 30 minutes.

Evolving Policies for Communications From Basic Military Training

Before you head to boot camp, erase all photographs and videos that could be considered to be lewd or pornographic. Your cell phone may be inspected during the initial briefing, and you may be required to sign a policy agreement. Different training platoons may only allow voice calls and not allow swapping texts, videos, and photos, and you probably won't be allowed to have your phone with you at all times like you did in civilian life.

One of the reasons the military is so successful is that they are willing to take full advantage of new technology. Most adult members of our society carry a cell phone these days, and new military recruits generally have a cell phone with them all the time after basic training. Some military members even use cell phones to call home from overseas assignments. There have even been cases of military members in Iraq and Afghanistan using personal cell phones to pass on vital military information to their commands when the military communication means failed.​

Other military services may or may not allow cell phone use during their basic training programs. As communications methods evolve, so will these policies.