WASHINGTON -- The Army has launched the new Digital Garrison mobile app that provides information and facilitates access to a full array of on-post services, as part of a partnership with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, or AAFES.
The app, which can be downloaded on Android and Apple devices, provides users with secure access to facility information and other "quality-of-life" services by consolidating data from three related networks, said Scott Malcom, Army Installation Management Command public affairs director.
"It puts real-time installation information in everybody's pockets," Malcom said. "There are hundreds of thousands of people that access Army installations every day. Almost every one carries a cell phone. The app will add value to their time spent on an installation -- whether it is to live, work, train, or play."
Within the easy-to-use app, Soldiers, families, veterans, and civilians living or working at a Digital Garrison-enabled post can access resources about their local exchange; Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program; and other services.
More than 60 installations are represented on the app, with plans to add more in future updates, Malcom said. Joint bases operated by other services and select garrisons without sites on the networks that feed the app will not be incorporated in the initial launch.
Users can customize the app to meet their needs. Digital Garrison will include an installation directory, gate locations and hours, fitness and recreation options, weather, event information, and more, he said.
Soldiers and families who are new to an area can also access in-processing and other newcomer material before a permanent change of station, Malcom said.
“When they do move, they enjoy the continuity provided by an enterprise solution,” he added.
Digital Garrison also provides an in-app shopping function through ShopMyExchange.com, along with local AAFES shopping and restaurant details. It also features a mobile wallet function where shoppers can use their MILITARY STAR card.
Program officials are set to continually improve the app through daily updates, based on in-app feedback from users, in addition to regularly scheduled major updates.
One of the first major updates will include local commissary information and a link to Click2Go, the Defense Commissary Agency's online grocery ordering portal and curbside pickup service, but only if the capability is available at a given installation.
“Feedback is very important to us,” Malcom said. "The app includes a feedback portion where users can communicate and help us shape it going forward. This is not a ‘one and done.’ Users can count on the fact that we will continually optimize the app after launch."
Push notifications for emergencies are also an important feature of the app, Malcom said. For example, installation officials may send a pre-drafted notification during an active-shooter situation or at times of inclement weather.
Leaders will also have the ability to write their own customized messages and announcements to distribute to the force through the app after the first major update scheduled to occur at the end of August, Malcom said.
Residents of on-post housing can link to their installation’s privatized housing partner, he said. Personnel living in military housing will eventually have a similar capability.
Digital Garrison will become the Army enterprise mobile app for installations, Malcom added. Local app solutions will cease, ensuring all applicable garrisons comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act and other cybersecurity protocols.
The partnership that brought the Digital Garrison app to life started in July 2019, Malcom said. At that time, the Exchange, IMCOM, and Army MWR were all developing apps to essentially do the same thing -- provide information about on-post services or activities.
“The Exchange is honored to partner with the Army to ensure the 125-year-old Exchange benefit remains relevant to its communities,” said Karen Cardin, AAFES senior vice president for customer experience.
The team released a Digital Garrison beta version in January, which fueled a more significant test of it in early March. During the limited user evaluation, a total of 10 installations throughout the U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska, and Germany were chosen by program officials to participate, Malcom said.
"During that process, we learned how garrisons should prepare their online data to optimize its presentation in the app,” he said. “We learned that the better a garrison maintains their websites that feed Digital Garrison, the better the garrison is represented in it. The pilot allowed us to work out all the details and provide clear instructions to all the installations feeding the app to prepare their data for transmission.”
The decision to create the app shows the Army’s eagerness to transition from the “industrial age to the information age,” Malcom said.
“The Exchange worked side-by-side with IMCOM to put real-time information in the hands of Soldiers, families and civilians,” Cardin added. “Digital Garrison is another chapter in our long relationship with Army families, allowing us to fulfill our mission to make life better for those who serve.”