The truth about cell phones in Basic Training
Thank god you got out when you did! The moment you received your DD-214, it was officially an end of an era. Hopefully, your branch won't fall victim like all those other, weaker branches did. It's Lord of the Flies in here. New recruits are arriving in droves and they're pulling out their cell phones in basic training to record themselves talking back to their drill sergeants. If the drill sergeants have a problem with it, they whip out their stress cards, go back to eating their Tide Pods, and continue listening to their music (which, coincidentally, has gotten progressively worse since your generation, too).
In case you couldn't tell, that introduction was slathered in enough satire to make Duffel Blog proud. If it wasn't clear enough, don't worry — stress cards weren't ever a real thing and only a handful of people actually ate Tide Pods to get attention on social media.
The bit about cell phones, however, does have some basis in reality, but it's nowhere near as overblown as you might think. First of all, phone calls are still a privilege (not a right) that's dispensed at the discretion of the drill sergeant. If the drill sergeant says, "no phones this week," that's the final word.
Which leads directly into the next concern shared by many millennial-fearing vets. Let's set the record straight: No. Privates in Basic are not allowed to keep their cell phones on them at all times. When Soldiers are allowed to use their phones, usually on a Sunday night, they follow the same rules as they were "back in the day" with pay phones. This time around, however, instead of allowing a line to form behind the phone, drill sergeants simply free recruits' phones from lock-up.
Drill sergeants still monitor all phone use and often restrict photography, texting, and social media usage. If the recruits can send texts or check Facebook, it is entirely because the drill sergeant saw fit to reward them with such privilege. If the recruits are not allowed, then it's just standard voice calls (wait — do phones still have a "voice call" feature?).
Either way, once their extremely short lease on phone time is spent, the phones are locked back up until the privilege is earned again.
The amount of pay phones in operation has dropped 95% since 1999, and a good portion of those that remain are in New York City. The pay phone business is far too dated to remain competitive in today's world but the need for trainees to inform their family that they "just got here" and that they're "doing fine" hasn't magically evaporated.
So, yes. The military is an ever-changing, ever-adapting beast, but the high level of professionalism that you grew to love hasn't been destroyed by the rise of cell phones.