Limited cell phone usage to be allowed for recruits in Navy boot camp

by Vern Evans

Navy recruits undergoing basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, may now call their family members on their own cell phones — a departure from previous Navy policy that barred the use of personal cell phones while there.

The policy change comes as the Navy eyes ways to lower attrition rates amid a challenging recruiting environment for all the military services and as the Navy missed its recruiting goals for the first time in fiscal year 2023.

Going forward, recruits are authorized to use their personal devices rather than landline phones for the five phone calls they are granted during the 10-week boot camp, a changed that Recruit Training Command said came about after several months of testing the new policy.

“In this post-COVID pandemic culture, digital identities have proven increasingly critical in helping to deal with day-to-day stress,” Capt. Ken Froberg, commanding officer of Recruit Training Command, said in a Navy news release Friday.

The new policy allows recruits to “connect with their loved ones in a more modern way,” said Froberg, who noted he used a payphone and phone card to call home from overseas in 1994.

Part of a broader initiative to improve quality of life for sailors, officials hope the new policy will help reduce the number of sailors who drop out in the initial weeks of basic military training.

“We are hopeful that allowing Recruits continued but limited access to their cell phones and digital identities may help reduce this attrition,” Lt. Eren Roubal, Recruit Training Command’s clinical psychologist, said in a Navy news release.

“As digital natives, new Recruits can potentially experience psychological stress from being abruptly disconnected from their digital identities,” Roubal said.

The Navy said the new policy aims to help new sailors gradually adjust to life aboard a ship where digital access is limited.

“It is still important that we train Sailors to be resilient,” Froberg said. “We have to do better in this space to prepare our Sailors for a digitally austere operating environment at sea.”

The Navy first announced in November it would permit recruits from two divisions access to cell phones during “designated periods” to connect with family, friends and to handle personal matters.

The service is aiming to bring in 40,600 new active duty enlisted personnel, as well as 7,619 Reserve enlisted personnel, for fiscal year 2024 — up from the 30,236 new sailors it recruited last year.

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