If your recruit did not take a phone card to Boot Camp, you can send one when you write. Your recruit will need a calling card to make any calls other than the "I'm here!" call or calls for information or if there is a problem. Your recruit will receive a calling card in his/her ditty bag and is also able to purchase one at the NEX. (See the info in page 1 of the Family Guide at http://www.bootcamp.navy.mil/fam_guide.asp.)
If you choose to buy a regular calling card, Walgreens sometimes has them on sale at a reduced price and there are other places as well where you can obtain them. Be sure to activate the card before you send it so your Recruit does not have to waste valuable time and minutes doing that. It has been suggested that you purchase one that has at least 400 minutes on it, partly because 10 to 20 minutes is used up each time the card is accessed even for a short call. You can also make a copy of the card before mailing it and check every now and then to see how many minutes remain and add minutes since some are reloadable. Virtual calling cards are also available on the web. These are an 800 number and a PIN that your recruit must enter to make the call. These are reloadable and if you keep the information, you can check the balance and add minutes if needed.
If you or your recruit has a PennyTalk account, your recruit can use that account to make calls. Using a PennyTalk account, calls within the USA and some other countries are 1 cent per minute. This may be a good option if your recruit has people to call in other countries. See http://www.pennytalk.com/. (Note: A 49¢ connection fee is charged each time a call connects. A 99¢ monthly service fee applies to all accounts. A 90¢ payphone surcharge applies to each call made from a payphone.) You can also purchase PennyTalk calling cards at major retail stores such as Walgreens. A 49¢ connection fee is charged each time a call connects and a 90¢ payphone surcharge applies to each call made from a payphone.
Soon after your recruit arrives at the RTC, s/he will be permitted to make the “I’m here!” call. It will be short (30 seconds or less--10 to 20 seconds is average) and to the point. "I made it. I'm here. I'm fine. Love ya. I gotta go." This call may be scripted and often the recruit includes, "Look for a box in a few days and a letter in about a week. I will try to call in about 3 weeks." (Sometimes the recruits say 2 weeks instead.) This call can come at any time, even in the wee hours of the morning for some depending on the flight or bus schedule. If your recruit took a cell phone with him or her, then this will be the last call from that phone before you receive it back in "the box" a few days later. Sometimes a recruit does not get to make this call if s/he did not take a cell phone or his/her cell phone battery is dead because the recruits now must use a cell phone for this call and there is not always time for everyone to make the call on a borrowed cell phone. There are no phone banks at Inprocessing. The RDC's will permit recruits to make that call later if they were unable to make it, but many recruits choose not to do that because they do not want to be singled out and the call would be scripted and supervised by the RDC. These "make up" calls have been coming on the weekend after arrival for most, but can come on any day one to five days after arrival. Some recruits have snuck in an extra call by saying that they did not get to make the call upon arrival and so their loved ones get the scripted call (or something similar) when the "make up" calls are made, which can be a little confusing since it is pretty much the same call that they received a few days earlier. (Note: Even though your recruit may say the first call will be in about 2 or 3 weeks, it could be anytime based on when the RDC is able to schedule a phone call and some are able to call before that.)
There is no set number of calls a Recruit will be able to make. Most recruits make the "I'm here!" call soon after arriving at the RTC; this call is from his/her cell phone or a borrowed cell phone. Most Sailors will make one or more calls to say, "I'm a Sailor!" Recruits are often permitted to make an "I'm still alive!" call in about week 3 or 4 and have usually received mail by that time, but that call can be lost for any number of reasons. Recruits have also been able to make a very short call within a week or so of arrival at times just because the RDC was in a good mood. Calls before week 3 or 4 are most often due to needing additional information, often to assist with Security Clearance (See more on that in the December 13, 2012 comment below by MSgtRet DIV 912.), or due to a problem and are on the Navy. The calls for information or due to a problem are supervised and the Recruit is not usually permitted to chitchat. Don't expect a call, but do have your phone available from 8ish am to 8ish pm Central Time and be pleasantly surprised if you do receive a call. You may want to forward your home phone to your cell phone when you leave the house to reduce the likelihood of missing a call made to your home phone. Some people record a special message for their recruit just in case they do miss a call; that way the recruit still knows s/he is loved and encouraged.
To forward calls from your home phone to your cell phone, for most phone providers the code is 72#, but it may be different for some providers. Dial 72# from your home phone. Then when you get the dial tone dial your 10-digit cell phone number (including area code). You should hear a couple of tones and your cell phone should ring. If it doesn't ring, repeat until it does and your calls will be forwarded to your cell phone. When you want to cancel the call forwarding, pick up your home phone and dial 73# (it may be different for some providers). Hang up and call your home phone from your cell phone to be sure that call forwarding has been cancelled; if not, dial 73# again. Check with your phone provider if you are unsure of the codes to use.
Some loved ones who work nights and usually turn off their phones or who work in places where they are not to take calls during work have instructed the recruit to call his/her own cell phone and it has worked well. Others should not be calling your recruit's phone since s/he is at BC so it should only be receiving calls from your recruit and most bosses have permitted that. In most cases "the box" with the cell phone will arrive before the recruit will be able to make a call.
Those with a recruit with a contract for one of the following ratings may be called for additional information for a security clearance while your recruit is in BC and/or during "A" School or while receiving other training: special ops (SEALs, ND, SWCC, AIRR, and EOD), a Spook rating (CTI, CTM, CTN, CTR, CTT, IS, and IT), MA and those in NF and sub ratings. Having a recruit who will have one of these ratings does not guarantee that you will get one or more additional calls for information because the Navy may have the information that they need from you and your recruit may have to call someone else for something or may not need to call anyone at all. If your recruit has a contract for a different rating, s/he may still need additional information for some reason. Recruits with a contract for any rating may call from medical, most often during P-days, to get the name and/or contact information for a physician s/he has seen in the past or to have medical information faxed.
If you have a phone call from the 847 area code, or US GOVERNMENT, or PRIVATE CALL, or RESTRICTED, or PAY PHONE, or WITHHELD, or UNAVAILABLE or ATT CALLING CARD, be sure to answer!!! (It is possible that a Recruit could call from another area code as well--773, 224, 312, 872 are all area codes in that area.) You may want to start a list of questions you have for your recruit and keep it near your phone. As with letters, don't share anything that will distress your recruit. It’s fine to let your recruit know that you miss him/her, but always follow it with how proud you are of him/her and how much you are looking forward to seeing him/her in his/her dress whites or dress blues at PIR as a US Navy Sailor. (GL changes over to dress blues the first full week of October and to dress whites the first full week of May. The command determines the switch over date and it could change from that if the need arose.)
Once your recruit is in his/her permanent ship following P-days, the RDC's do not usually schedule calls between 7 am and 1 pm CST on Sunday because of holiday routine. This allows the recruits the opportunity to attend chapel and know that they do not have to make a choice between making a phone call and attending a worship service. There also will not be any scheduled calls between those hours on the day of a PIR, which is usually on Friday, since the RDC's would need to be in the Drill Hall and available to the graduating divisions. All other times are fair game.
The "I'm still alive!" or other calls the RDC schedules usually come in the mornings if they are made on Monday through Thursday, but they can come anytime between 8 am and 8 pm CST if the phone banks are available. This is because the "I'm a Sailor!" calls, which are typically made 1 to 7 days before PIR, but can come up to 10 days before PIR, are in the afternoon and evenings and begin around 2ish pm CST and end around 8ish pm CST. (See Battle Stations-21 (BST).) Calls can come anytime between 1 pm and 8 pm CST on Friday if the phone banks are available and anytime between 8 am and 8 pm CST on Saturday and between 1 pm and 8 pm CST on Sunday. Calls for security reasons or for information are made during regular business hours. Calls for additional information during P-days can come anytime, but usually come between 6 am and 10 pm CST--even on weekends because recruits do not have holiday routine while in P-days and a recruit could be asked to make a call while in P-Hold.
The RDC's schedule the phone banks and determine how much time the division will have. The recruit/Sailor will determine who s/he will call. Sometimes an RDC will schedule only a short time at the phone banks and recruits are only able to make one or two 5 to 10 minute calls; calls have also been as short as 1 to 2 minutes, especially if the call is before week 3. Other times, the recruit/Sailor will have an hour or more and will decide how to divide up that time among those s/he wants to talk to. There are 2 rooms near the NEX where the phone banks are located and approximately 50 to 60 phones available in each room depending on how many are in working order. There are also 4 to 6 computers available in each room.
There are a number of reasons that your recruit would be unable to call when others in the division are making calls. The most common reasons are:
*The recruit had watch: the recruit may or may not be able to make the call at a later time.
*The recruit had not passed a test: the recruit may be permitted to make the call once s/he passes the test.
*The recruit had a medical or dental appointment: the recruit may be permitted to make the call at a later time, but often is not able to.
*The recruit is SIQ: the recruit may be permitted to make the call at a later time, but often is not able to.
*The recruit or someone else in the division did something that the RDC deemed unacceptable while the division was making the calls: the recruit/s will not be able to make the call.
*An individual or small group earned a call due to a perfect inspection or test score or for another reason the RDC deemed merited a call: only those earning the call will make calls.
*The recruit had duties to perform as Division Staff or Ship Staff when the call was scheduled: the recruit may or may not be able to make the call at a later time.
*The recruit chose to give his/her phone time to another recruit or time ran out while the recruit was waiting in line because others didn't watch the time closely: the recruit/s will not be able to make the call. (Some recruits have given their phone time to another recruit because it was his/her birthday and they wanted to help make his/her day special.)
*The recruit did not have a phone card and his/her shipmates did not share one and s/he did not want to buy one at the NEX or did not have enough time to activate the calling card with the time allotted: the recruit will not be able to make up the call. The good news is that one or more of the other recruits may have gotten to talk longer to his/her loved ones. Be sure that your recruit has phone cards.
If your recruit will be at the RTC for one or more holidays, his/her RDC may schedule a call, but it is more likely that you will not get a call. Remember there are thousands of Recruits at the RTC and it would be very hard to give all of them even 5 minutes at the phone banks on one day. There are generally 6000-7000 or more recruits at the RTC at one time, but when you realize that each of the 14 ships can hold around 1000 recruits, it could be many more. Some will be adopted out for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that means there are 2 TG's less at the RTC on those days and those who are adopted usually do make calls while they are away from the RTC. Don't expect a call, but have your phone available and be pleasantly surprised if you do get one. Calls on holidays can come anytime between 8ish am to 8ish pm Central Time.
If your recruit is adopted in the Thanksgiving or Christmas Adopt-A-Sailor program, phone calls can come from any area code because people from the organizations sponsoring them will bring their cell phones and let the recruits call. Area code 219 has been mentioned, but calls could come from any area code, so pick up even if you don't recognize the phone number if it is Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day. The Thanksgiving Adopt-A-Sailor program is for the next 2 TG's after Thanksgiving. The Christmas Adopt-A-Sailor program is for 2 TG's after Christmas--it has been the 2 TG's following Christmas, but the RTC has also skipped the TG immediately after Christmas and adopted out the first 2 TG's in January. There will be information on the program, including what TG's are eligible, posted on the RTC’s fB page and you will get a form from your recruit if s/he is eligible for either program that you must return if you plan to adopt him/her.
If there is a natural disaster, or other serious event, that affects a large number of people in a particular area of our nation, recruits with loved ones in the affected area may be permitted to make a short call to check on their loved ones. It all depends on the RDC and if the phone banks are available to do so.
In the Navy, "No news is good news." Your Recruit will be permitted to contact you almost immediately if something goes wrong, and if the Recruit cannot, the Navy will. If by one week prior to PIR, you have not received a call indicating that there is a problem, then most likely everything is on track for your recruit to have PIR on time; every now and then the call indicating a problem will come on the Monday or Tuesday before PIR, especially for a recruit in a Push Division, but most calls are made before that. (See Battle Stations-21 (BST).) There have been Sailors, and even a whole division once, who were unable to make the "I'm a Sailor!" calls because of duties they had, doing other things and running out of time, or the RDC not being able to schedule the call because other divisions were scheduled and/or the division had to practice for PIR. If you do not receive a call at all, everything is on schedule for PIR and you will have a Sailor at PIR.
The above information is provided by lemonelephant, the mom of a retired Sailor.