Today’s number is 5.
That’s the number of pay phones to be installed at each of the 25 newly constructed trainee barracks on Sand Hill and Harmony Church. Each barracks can accommodate 240 Soldiers. If you do the math, that’s roughly 40 Soldiers per phone.
Not a problem, said Lt. Col. Mary Martin, commander of the 30th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception) whose unit receives, processes, and prepares Basic Combat Training and Infantry One Station Unit Training Soldiers entering the Army.
“Five phones are less than what we previously had, but due to the usage of cell phones I do not see lines at our pay phones,” Martin said. “Since we’ve moved into our building in April, I’ve seen maybe one person on the pay phone.”
Martin said Soldiers who have cell phones pay a monthly service fee to use them and are permitted to use their phones to make that important first call home, on the weekend, or for an emergency.
“Cell phones identify the caller and the phone number is familiar to the soldier’s family,” she said. “In the age of Caller ID, some families are not apt to answer their phone if they do not recognize the caller.”
For many Soldiers, basic training is their first time away from family, and that call home becomes a life line, she said. Not all trainees own cell phones however, and in this event, the pay phone continues to serve a vital role.
To ensure cell phones are not misused to transmit inappropriate videos or photos or otherwise portray the Army in an unprofessional manner, Martin said Soldiers are required to place cell phone calls in a controlled environment while in Reception.
Roughly 114,000 Soldiers train on Fort Benning annually, 30,000 of them on Sand Hill. When the MCoE’s move of the Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky. to Fort Benning, Ga. is completed, Martin said she anticipates the numbers of new Soldiers completing Initial Entry Training at Fort Benning will increase by about 5,000 to 7,500 depending on the Army’s mission at that time. A new 573,000 sq. ft. reception station was completed last spring to prepare for the influx in the processing of new soldiers.
James Irby, field manager on the Soldier Ready Team, said his job is to ensure everything in a new building is complete and functioning before it is turned over to the Soldiers. He said Fort Benning used to serve 12 pay phones at each barracks, but increased cell phone usage among Soldiers has changed that requirement.
“If we see that the requirement increases, then AT&T will fulfill it,” Irby said.
The next BRAC Community Update is at 3 p.m. Dec. 7 at the National Infantry Museum.