Companies aid deploying service members

14 Jan 2003 | Lance Cpl. Sharon E. Fox

What should a Marine do when he or she deploys, but has a contract to fulfill with a cell phone company?

Because most major cell phone companies have a one-year contract term agreement, many service members have felt the burden of circumstances beyond their control, but many of these companies are willing to help.

Cell phone companies like NEXTEL and Cingular Wireless will terminate a customer's contract from the date of deployment with a copy of the service member's orders. No cancellation fees will be charged. When the service member returns stateside, he or she may choose to join with the company again and will be assigned a new phone number.

Sprint PCS, SunCom and AllTell also require a copy of orders and will place the person's phone on inactive status until they return from their deployment. At that point, the individual is required to fulfill the contract.

Contracts affected must be in the individual service member's name and will not release a spouse from their cellular phone contract obligations.

Crystal Becker, a SunCom sales associate at the Main Exchange here said, "In just two days, I've had at least 50 inquiries from Marines to get their contracts put on hold ... and those were just questions for me. We have about eight employees working here, at Marine Corps Air Station New River, and at the Jacksonville, N.C., location."

She said it's been especially busy in the past couple weeks, but the company has done its best to accommodate the needs of the service members.

Officials at Marine Corps Base here tasked Staff Sgt. Jason G. Chabot, a frequency spectrum manager, to find out what the policies were for the different companies. The Kalispell, Mo., native, said he found most are very supportive of service members.

"I think (cell phone companies) are supportive of our military and understand the needed flexibility; especially in this time of potential world conflict."

Many Marines and sailors at the Marine Corps Exchange said they were glad to hear they would not have to pay for a service they would be unable to use overseas.

"I think it's awesome the companies will do that for us," said Hialeah, Fla., native Cpl. Lloyd Duran, a network technician assigned to 8th Communications Battalion. "It'll save me a lot of headaches down the road."