You'll get a chance to call home at least once during basic training, and probably a few more times, unless your flight is so totally screwed up that they make your T.I. unhappy.
First Phone Call. This is the only mandatory phone calls that T.I.'s are required to let recruits make. You only get one chance at this, so if the person you call is not home at the time, that's just tough.
Your first phone call will most likely happen on the first Saturday or Sunday afternoon after your arrival, but this is not a hard, fast rule. It's basically up to the T.I. This will be a very short phone call (only about 3 minutes), enough time to pass on your mailing information. Warn your family/loved ones in advance about this phone call. You will not sound "well." Your voice will be shaky, and you'll sound like you're on the verge of tears. During this particular stage of training, you'll swear that T.I.'s are around every corner, under every table, just waiting for you to do something wrong so they can yell at you for it. This "scared rabbit" feeling transfers to your telephone voice. The bad thing is that you won't have time to tell them that you're really okay. You've got enough time to spit out your mailing address, then you have to give the phone up to the next recruit in line. So, make sure your family is ready for this. Otherwise, they may spend the next several days thinking they made a mistake about letting their "baby" go away to basic training.
Patio Breaks and Other Phone Calls. After the first mandatory phone call, how often you get to call home is a matter of "privilege." The phones are located on the "break patio" of each dormitory. You earn "patio breaks" (as a flight) by keeping your T.I. happy. If your flight is doing well, your T.I. will give them more patio breaks. If your flight is not doing well, the T.I. may withhold patio breaks. In addition to the phones, the patio has candy and coke machines. Whether or not you are allowed to use them, however, is up to your T.I.
T.I.'s are given a lot of latitude in this area. At Lackland, I met T.I's with completely different philosophies. One T.I. allowed his recruits to purchase candy and cokes on patio breaks during the first week. Another T.I. I met did not allow any of his recruits to have candy or coke (or even deserts in the chow hall) until after the 4th week of training.
Other than the first phone call, you will only be allowed to call home during authorized patio breaks. Keep in mind that there are going to be lots of other anxious folks waiting in line to use the pay phones at the same time. There is only one patio per dormitory building, and several flights are housed in each building. You may get lucky and your T.I. will give your flight a patio break when nobody else has one, or you may get to the patio and find out that every other T.I. in the building decided to give their flights a patio break at the same time. How long you will be able to chat on the phone depends on how long your patio break is, and how many other folks are waiting to use the phone.
Remember, these are pay phones, so bringing a pre-paid phone card with you to basic training can speed things up. That way, you won't have to go through the operator to arrange for a collect call.
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