Soldier In Afghanistan Accidentally Calls Parents In The Middle Of A Battle

from the phone-home dept

Most folks have experienced "accidental" phone calls, when a poorly designed mobile phone interface leads to a phone in a pocket somewhere accidentally redialing the last number called. Every once in a while you hear stories about it happening at very inappropriate times. But Jeff Nolan points us to an extreme such a case. An American soldier in Afghanistan accidentally dialed his parents' phone number in Oregon, just as he was in the middle of a battle. His parents weren't home, but the message was recorded on their voicemail, including (as you might expect) guns firing, lots of swearing, and the son yelling about problems he was having with his gun as well as the need for more ammunition. Even worse, the call cut off just as another soldier yelled "Incoming! RPG!" As you might imagine, the parents were a bit freaked out, but eventually reached their son, who says he's a bit embarrassed by the whole ordeal. Yet another reminder to make sure to "lock" the keypad on your phone.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 3:11am

    So, no cases of a soldier being captured and the enemy calling the soldier's family?

     

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  2.  
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    Duncan, May 7th, 2008 @ 3:44am

    " when a poorly designed mobile phone interface leads to a phone in a pocket somewhere"

    So, pressing the call key to redial the last phone number is now known as a poorly designed mobile phone interface? Last time I checked, 99.99% of the phones are that way, and those who _DON'T_ have that feature, is a poorly designed mobile hone interface...

    This is the stupidity of the user, not the phone.

    But thank you for an interesting story, I'd be a bit freaked out as well if I were his parents.

     

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  3.  
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    Hyrulio, May 7th, 2008 @ 4:11am

    Seriously...

    ... How hard is it to lock the keys?

     

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  4.  
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    your mom, May 7th, 2008 @ 4:18am

    Re: Seriously...

    like you never did anything accidently, dumbass

     

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  5.  
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    Alan Greenspan, May 7th, 2008 @ 4:27am

    Things a soldier has on their mind that are more important than locking their keypad:

    - Not being shot
    - Not being killed by a roadside bomb

     

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  6.  
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    comboman, May 7th, 2008 @ 4:52am

    coverage?

    How can he get cellphone coverage in the middle of a battlezone in a third-world country when I can't get it in my suburban house?

     

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  7.  
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    Not Telling, May 7th, 2008 @ 4:59am

    First Hear News

    When I first heard this on the radio, I thought it was a video game. This coming from a person who woke up and turned on the television and thought 9/11 was a new movie coming out. Its sad how desensitized we have become.
    I'm glad to hear the guy is alright...if I were his parents, I would scream for him to return home!

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:00am

    : I used to like this site, When you write crap about our servicemen like this, YOU FUCKED UP! Hey DUMBASS! Did you forget how you retain your freedom of speech! Leave our Guys out of your dirt stories, You should be ashamed.

    I'd like to see an article about this article on another site.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:01am

    Re: coverage?

    Not trying to flame you here at all comboman, but that kind of attitude is part of the diplomacy issue America has.

    There is a lot of money in the Middle East. Granted, its not as industrialised as North America or western Europe, but they DO have highways that you'd recognize and cell phone towers.

    In some countries this is for the benifit of the few rather than the many, but in most they ARE trying to modernize their nations.

    Its why the nuclear power issue with say Iran is more complicated than people would like to admit. Do we trust Iran? Not really. Add on all the propaganda about nuclear energy from the Cold War and rising tension against anyone who even 'looks' muslim and its no wonder the US is uncomfortable with it.

    At the same time though, if Iran DID have nuclear power (which does not equate nuclear weapons) that would accelerate development enormously. All the sudden its not prohibitive to do things like put street lights on every corner and so on.

    There is a whole lot of hate and mistrust in the Middle East which hampers them from developing this stuff. Easier to have an enemy that's a few miles behind rather than a few steps.

     

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  10.  
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    J, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:04am

    I don't buy it

    You know, for some reason this doesn't pass the sniff test.
    I'm in the military and when we go on patrols, we take what we need. (i.e. no cell phones on patrol). Unless he had a shitty squad / patrol leader (who did not properly conduct a gear inspection) or he staged the whole thing, I'm not buying it.

    Perhaps I'm being too cynical, but it seems staged to me.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:08am

    Re:

    So for one you talk about freedom of speech and want to censor Techdirt or have them censor themselves just because they have a story about servicemen.

    Already you are a hypocrite.

    Second you are getting overtones from the story that don't exist. You apparently are more interested in your own 'rightous' anger than in being an adult.

    Now you are a moron too.

    Hey fucknut! The majority of my friends are in the service and so's a good chunk of my family. So fucking what if someone mentions a story about servicemen and technology? Nevermind that the only thing being 'attacked' in the article was user interface of the phone.

    *Everyone* forgets to lock their phone sometimes. Being in the military doesn't make you infallible, you can still make mistakes. That's why its an "accident."


    Oh and I hope to see an article about this article on another site as well. Then when you link here more people will see just how fucking stupid you are.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:10am

    Re: I don't buy it

    Well, we'll find out in a few years if you remember to get the declassifed report. If it was a battle someone had to fill some paperwork just so people know why ammo was spent.

    Match the dates and the troops involved and voila.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:14am

    11 : Fuck you and everyone you know!

     

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  14.  
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    Verizon Guy, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:18am

    Can you hear me now? ....KABLAM!!!

    Whoever provides cell phone service to this soldier ought to cash in on the coverage.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:23am

    I would have to agree with #10 - Makes absolutly no sense for a soldier to take a cell phone on a patrol. Can you just imagine trying to sneak up on the enemy and your phone rings.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:26am

    I like TechDirt, But many that post here need to take a DirtNap! : Lets start with #9 : What the hell does that have to do with this article? but since you brought it up... Did you forget the leader of Iran saying publically that he wants to Nuke Isrial, Yeah, They only want it for peacefull power, BullShit!

     

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  17.  
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    Jake, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:32am

    Re: Seriously...

    On somne models I've owned, including one made by Trium where you can disengage the keypad lock by pressing and holding one key (I believe this is what our correspondent meant by 'poorly-designed'), harder than you might think.

     

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  18.  
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    Chunky Vomit, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:34am

    I thought that soldiers were not supposed to have their cell phones with them when in the field. Aren't cell phone signals useful for triangulating ones position?

     

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  19.  
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    known coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:34am

    lighten up

    this is an amusing story.

    as other posters have noted,

    1. that is pretty good cell coverage
    2. I always carry my phone into combat with me, never
    know when you need delivery pizza at the front

    All that said apparently there is a voice copy of the call on youtube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4goOzg0lass

     

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  20.  
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    Paul`, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:39am

    Re:

    I think he means the fact that it doesn't auto lock the keypad or some other similar function.

     

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  21.  
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    Jake, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:48am

    Re: I don't buy it

    Depends where he was carrying it; putting it in a pouch in his beltkit would probably be noticed and earn him a few sharp words from his NCO, but if he'd left it in the pocket of his BDU trousers would probably not be noticed. Besides, I've heard that mobile phones are actually being employed as field-expedient backup personal comms gear by British infantry units out there; they can cope better without line-of-sight than issue radios.

     

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  22.  
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    Paul`, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:49am

    Re:

    So simply commenting on a widely reported storey, whilst not poking fun or laying blame (I believe he actually blamed a poorly designed phone and no person in particular) makes this a 'dirt' story.

    And as to another site, didn't someone mention hearing this on the radio?

    Maybe you should stop giving your 'guys' a bad vibe by defending them by acting like a fucking asshole.

     

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  23.  
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    A guy in FL, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:51am

    Uhm...

    I don't see any negative attacks on our service members, AC. They're just pointing out an accident that just happened to happen in the middle of a combat situation. So you should chill out and actually READ the post.

    - Former E-3, US Army

     

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  24.  
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    Wolfy, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:54am

    As a former combat soldier, it is the height of stupidity to carry ANY personal items the enemy could use against you, if captured. I'm sure his parents appreciated that call, as well.

     

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  25.  
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    James, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:54am

    HAHAHAHA!!

    This is rich... LOL, can you imagine...... parents return home, presses button...

    "You have 3 NEW messages,... message 1"
    "HOLLLLLLLLLLLLY F**K WE'RE UNDER FIRE! I GOT 'EM IN MY SITES, I GOT 'EM.... OH SHIT! ... DUDE.. MY PHONE IS ON", "REALLY? WTF?", "OMG! I'M CALLING MY ..." (click)

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:55am

    Re: Re: I don't buy it

    That's either hilarious or very sad (that mobile phones can handle battlefield situations better than military radios).

    "The radio isn't getting through!"
    "Oh no! Wait! I have my BOOST MOBILE!"
    "Quick, call the commander!"
    *ring ring*
    "WHERE YOU AT, DOG!"

    (Hope I haven't just given boost mobile an advertising campaign idea)

     

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  27.  
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    Carl, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:59am

    Another military guy....

    As someone who has been over in that theater twice already I find this a bit fishy too, for a few reasons.

    1. Same as above, a personal inspection should of been done.
    2. Cell phones are NOT allowed (I see him getting in some trouble over this IF true).
    3. Cell phone coverage is for the most part non existent except for certain areas over there, hence why the military usually issues a limited number of sat. phones instead.

    I'm in the "it was staged camp"

     

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  28.  
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    huh, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:59am

    Soldier In Afghanistan Accidentally Calls Parents In The Middle Of A Battle

    i was just curious which mobile service provideer he uses

     

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  29.  
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    Wolfy, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:00am

    Re: When you write crap about our servicemen like this

    If you've ever worn a uniform, I'll grant you your outrage. If you had, you would understand why Mr. Masnick's voice is just as valid as any other. I didn't find anything in the write up that I found offensive.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:14am

    # 22 ......Yet another reminder to make sure to "lock" the keypad on your phone........

    Like as if the soldier Fawked up or something!

    ESAD Paul!

     

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  31.  
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    Dave Zawislak, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:15am

    Re:

    Think about it...

    If the insurgents had the technology and the where with all to single out a cell phone, wouldn't they use it to triangulate the command center?

    I would think the cell phone ringing would be a bigger danger.

    As for it being on, do you turn off your cell phone every time, in a even less stressful situation? Ever hear a cellphone in church, for example?

     

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  32.  
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    Overcast, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:35am

    There's like some serious pantie binding here. I'm amazed people get so worked up and anal about a story like this.

    Sheesh - I guess there was a massive piss taken in the Wheaties - at the plant.

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:41am

    Most phones have auto key lock function designed. You just have to enable it.

     

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  34.  
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    Estepona, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:43am

    Cell Phone

    I can just picture this now... Rambo is hiding in the jungle near the enemy...

    His cell phone rings, "oh crap forgot to put it on silent!"

     

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  35.  
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    Colin Suttie, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:45am

    It's not as simple as 'remembering to lock your phone' - the last 2 Nokias I've had have made calls from my pocket while keylocked, in 1 case to the emergency services. This is about the only reason I'd ever buy a 'flip' phone.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:49am

    wow

    Wow. So many of you are so off topic that its sad. "Poorly designed interace" probably means overly sensitive keys without a way to lock them, or a way to keep them locked. As I highly doubt he is keeping an iPhone or another highend phone with him in battle, it is not unusual for the lowend phones to not have those suddenly important features. The poster did not seem critical, he just wrote about something interesting. Get off your high horses, pull your heads out, whatever it takes.

     

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  37.  
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    Michael Ennis, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:55am

    Saw this on the news this morning

    They had this story on Good Morning America today. played clips (the G rated portions) and interviewed the family. They asked the father what was going through his head when he heard his son yelling for more ammo. He replied, "I hoped someone would get him more ammo!" I'm just glad something like this didn't happen to my parents. I doubt my dad would've been that calm.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:58am

    Re:

    "Did you forget the leader of Iran saying publically that he wants to Nuke Isrial, Yeah, They only want it for peacefull power, BullShit!"

    Never said that Iran only wants it for nuclear power. Just said that even if they didn't there's a lot of mistrust anyways so they're going to have massive roadblocks.

    And there is more to the Middle East than Iran. Some worse, some better.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:00am

    Re:

    13: :)

     

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  40.  
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    Annonymous Predator, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:55am

    Re: I don't buy it

    I agree... This makes NO sense at all... WHY would you CARRY the phone with you? What if someone calls you while you're in battle? Do you wave a "Time-Out" because you HAVE TO ANSWER THE PHONE??? Isn't the idea to be stealth like when going into hostile territory? Even having a phone on silent - will produce a BUZZ that is loud enough to be heard somewhere like - THE MIDDLE OF A DESERT! SAND - WIND - And... HEY WHAT'S THAT BUZZING SOUND!

    Phone should not have been on the tour. End of story!

     

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  41.  
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    Hank, May 7th, 2008 @ 8:32am

    support our troops

    OK, first of all, I don't see anything negative being said about the soldier or the service in this article. So let's get off that road right now because I can't remember ever seeing Mike write anything negative about our troops.

    Second, for all you military guys writing that he should have never had the phone on him in the first place. You are right, that if it was a regular patrol he shouldn't have had the phone and equipment checks should have found it. However, you know as well as I do (former E-5) that he and his unit could have been called out from base for immediate support of another unit under attack, in which case the phone could have been missed while scrambling to get their gear and head out ASAP.

    Either way, let's all give the guy the benefit of the doubt here until proven otherwise. He's a soldier, he at least deserves that much from us.

    As for his parents, I can't even imagine the feeling when that message played. Think about the last time you were talking to someone while they were driving and they suddenly say "OH SHIT!" and hang up. Now multiply that feeling by 1,000,000.



    "we sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."
    -George Orwell-

     

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  42.  
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    zeemac, May 7th, 2008 @ 9:36am

    trace it

    Trace the call... TRACE THE GOD DAMN CALL!!

    ahh now we know where he is... let's go visit =]

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 10:17am

    The proliferation of cell phones amongst the populace is a big reason for increased tips on terrorists. If you have to go visit the coalition base in person, everyone can see you. If you can just use your cell to call from the safety of your home, personal risk is greatly reduced.

    Also, terrorists have been using cell phones to detonate bombs remotely for a while. The military has come up with countermeasures, though

    So the "There is no cell coverage" isn't really true. Cell phones are proportionally much more prominent in less developed countries than in the first world. If a country doesn't have established land line telecom systems, mobile phones are the way to go. If there is a firefight near civilization, it's likely you can get a signal.

    Whether or not this story is accurate for other reasons, I can not say.

     

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  44.  
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    CVPunk, May 7th, 2008 @ 11:07am

    Re: support our troops

    "we sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm"

    just thought I would point out it was not Orwell who said that... I would have accepted Churchill or Kipling though.
    Orwell's was a summation of a quote by Kipling.

     

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  45.  
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    TSO, May 7th, 2008 @ 11:41am

    Re: support our troops

    > men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

    ... with imaginary weapons of mass destruction?

     

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  46.  
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    UNKN, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    They have cell phones too

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2007/10/23/2007-10-23_parents_of_fallen_li_seal_get_sons_medal.html

    Granted this guy was a SEAL, but they carry them, and there's coverage there too. Do you people read the news at all? The Taliban were threatening to blow up cell towers in Afghanistan .

    Yeah, taking a cell phone out on patrol is stupid, but all this shit about "that's fake, how could he have coverage" is a lame argument to say the least.

     

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  47.  
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    JJ, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:39pm

    Re:

    Clearly, this is way over your head. It's not the feature that is poorly designed, it's the fact that the feature can be enabled when the user does not intend it to be enabled, such as when it is in a pocket. Flip phones for example, typically would not suffer from this problem as you have to physically open them to have their main features operate, however touch screen phones, if not properly designed have the potential to have the fabric of a pocket activate a feature at inappropriate times. This is easily resolvable by the manufacturer by providing a slid lock such as the iPhone so that it is not cumbersome to get into your phone yet highly unlikely that your spare change would be smart enough to figure it out.

    Think before you speak or ask a friend if what you want to say is smart enough to be posted on a tech blog, you'll save yourself much embarrassment.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:48pm

    I've always locked the keys on my phone -- I'm a bit stumped about how to "lock" them though.

     

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  49.  
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    Hank, May 7th, 2008 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re: support our troops

    Thank you for the correction. I was not aware.

     

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  50.  
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    Hank, May 7th, 2008 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re: support our troops

     

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  51.  
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    JJ, May 7th, 2008 @ 1:17pm

    Re:

    Clearly, this is way over your head. It's not the feature that is poorly designed, it's the fact that the feature can be enabled when the user does not intend it to be enabled, such as when it is in a pocket. Flip phones for example, typically would not suffer from this problem as you have to physically open them to have their main features operate, however touch screen phones, if not properly designed have the potential to have the fabric of a pocket activate a feature at inappropriate times. This is easily resolvable by the manufacturer by providing a slid lock such as the iPhone so that it is not cumbersome to get into your phone yet highly unlikely that your spare change would be smart enough to figure it out.

    Think before you speak or ask a friend if what you want to say is smart enough to be posted on a tech blog, you'll save yourself much embarrassment.

     

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  52.  
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    Hank, May 7th, 2008 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: support our troops

    poor decisions on the part of our gov't leadership (president and congress) has absolutely nothing to do with supporting our troops.

    I personally think GW is a shitty pres and congress can go straight to hell with him. But the way we change that is by voting based on informed decisions instead of voting along party lines.

    Our constitution lays out our rights as American citizens but without our troops to protect it, the constitution would be a worthless piece of paper and war would be on our doorstep instead of across the world. Regardless of your political affiliation everyone should support the men and women that lay their lives on the line every day for our freedoms.

    Next time you meet a soldier try thanking them for all of the sacrifices and hardship they, and their families, endure to protect your right to be an asshole instead of calling them a baby killer, damn liberal hippies.

     

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  53.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), May 7th, 2008 @ 1:58pm

    Cellphones in War Zones And Middle East

     

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  54.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), May 7th, 2008 @ 2:10pm

    Treo Has Worst UI For Pocket Pool

    Treos have a keylock function that is ridiculously simple to activate. Simply pressing the big center button unlocks the phone. Not only can it then place calls in your pocket, but it can edit address book data, delete appointments, whatever buttons your pocket lint is currently rubbing.

    Most people who use Treos don't use the password function, but I did since I stored sensitive info in the handset. The dumbest thing was that Palm figured that a locked phone should still be able to dial 911 in an emergency, thus when the phone is locked and password protected, a push on the big middle button unlocks it, then it asks for the password -- but a big on-screen button on the password entry screen says "Call 911". I can't tell you how many times I heard 911 operators talking out of my pocket. Over a dozen times in 2 years. I tried finding a way to make that "Call 911" button disappear, but it is programmed into the UI.

     

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  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 3:24pm

    God bless him and all our soldiers! Thank you for serving our country.

     

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  56.  
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    Matt, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:04pm

    Re: Another military guy....

    I'm with you on this one. The only way that I can even consider this being true is if it was a SAT phone that they used in case their lowest-bidder radio took a dook on them, which... Hey, it never happens at a good time.

    But IF this is the case, to have the dude's family as either a pre-programmed number OR the last call dialed?

    But I remember the strict prohibitions on having any kind of cell phone while we were on the other side of the berm. OPSEC, and all that stuff. Not bloody likely. Plus, even with that phat combat pay, aren't SAT phones still kinda pricey?

    Either way, this story stinks.

    Oh, and since I'm thinking about it... #8? Assuming that you're not a troll, you're a total fucknut. IF you got offended by this story, then likely you're a wannabe and/or a weekend warrior who would love to go full-monty and join up but are too afraid of getting hurt. Put the shiny red helmet back on, pound your head against the wall, and stay off the Internet.

     

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  57.  
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    real world..., May 8th, 2008 @ 9:13pm

    since when can you carry a cell with you into battle

    last time i checked... and it was about a week ago... you cant get a cell phone in Iraq or afghanastan.. they have the service.. u just cant sign the lease agreement because ur not a "citizen" and the laws are against the military over there.. i wish you could. My Girl would have a cell phone yesterday... and i would be able to talk, and TXT anytime. not jsut when she is at her computer.. i think the article is BOGUS.. was he in an excercise, training or some other non WAR game? in the US? maybe he was in spin up training before going and his parents think he is already over there... I am Prior military(gov Contractor now) i could never carry my cell. overseas... NEVER.. maybe my job was too sensitive overseas.. but i think being part of the 3c system, on a High Value Airborne asset with 30+ people on board. someone would have done it. if it was possible. never happened. i did carry my cell stateside though, even talked and txt'ed on the plane at altitude...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    identicon
    Tony, Jul 5th, 2008 @ 5:13pm

    cell phone service in afghanistan

    i recently arrived here in afghanistan. a friend of mine made calls from BAF using his AT&T service from home and racked up over a grand on his bill.

    point is, there is a way (multiple,at that) to get cell phone service as a soldier in afghanistan as well as iraq.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    identicon
    SPC.Hall, Jul 21st, 2010 @ 2:31pm

    Re: coverage?

    You can use satellite phones or some pre paid phones in afghanistan and iraq...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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