By Rachael Tolliver, Fort Knox Public AffairsAugust 20, 2015
In the days before portable alarm clocks and electronic wake-up services, Soldiers depended on a system of bugle calls to let them know about what time of the day it was. Think of it as a grandfather clock chime--but with an event tied to each call.
And even though today we have texting, emails and cell phones--bugle calls still have their places. To understand "why" we still use them, it is helpful to understand how they were used in the first place.
"Bugle calls told troops when to go to bed, when to wake up, when to eat, when to attack and when to retreat," explained David Fusselman, emergency management operations specialist with the Installation Protection Branch. "There were stable calls, water calls, drill calls, sick calls and church calls on Sunday."
In other words, the calls announced scheduled and certain non-scheduled events on an Army installation.
Today we hear the calls mostly for the sake of tradition but there are some calls that we still regularly observe.
While most calls don't have any particular significance--outside of tradition--to the daily activities of the workforce, the calls that require Soldiers and participating civilians to stop their daily routines are Reveille and Retreat/To the Color, as well as Retreat/National Anthem on Sundays, said Ron Jenkins, a branch and emergency manager for the IPB.
"On a personal note, I have spent most of my life on or around military installations and can pretty much tell you the time of day based on a bugle call without consulting my watch," Jenkins added. "Many of us have grown accustomed to these sounds of military life and the history they represent. In my opinion, those traditions serve as a daily reminder of who and why we serve, (and) Fort Knox wouldn't be the same without it."
But there is a second reason residents of Fort Knox and the surrounding area may hear bugle calls from time to time: the "giant voice" function tests.
The calls are played over the extensive loud speaker system that the installation has spent significant time developing. The reasons were not for bugle calls, but for emergency management.
"Playing the bugles on our exterior 'giant voice' exercises the system on a daily basis and helps us identify faults with the system prior to us actually needing to use it during a real-world emergency," Fusselman explained. "We have multiple systems to reach as many people as possible during an emergency. The 'giant voice' is just one part of the Mass Warning Notification System. (It) is meant to warn personnel outdoors and may not be heard indoors over the TV or children playing, etc."
The volume on the speakers is adjustable, but it's actually kept on the lowest setting unless there is some actual emergency
warning. And Fusselman said of the 24 "giant voices" there are eight in the housing areas and no bugle calls are played on them prior to 9 a.m., or after 6 p.m. But that doesn't mean you can't hear them around the area.
The other 16 units are spread throughout the installation and play bugle calls from 6:20 a.m. until 11 p.m.