FORT GORDON, Ga. -- (August 19, 2001) An increase in the commercial use of Smartphone technologies is rapidly finding its way into the military. For the past two years, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command has pursued a concept exploration pilot program called Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications. In the consumer market, the proliferation of phones and accessibility for developers to write and distribute powerful apps has created an environment that has challenged traditional software acquisition strategies. The reduced requirements for developers have empowered scores of programmers to learn to write apps.

The Army, through CSDA, is working toward creating mechanisms that will allow organizations to write their own apps for distribution through a future Army Marketplace. Part of the CSDA process is teaching government civilians and members of active duty and reserves the foundations of writing mobile apps. The U.S. Army Signal Center of Excellence established a Mobile Applications Branch at Fort Gordon, Ga., with a task to develop apps and host training opportunities for app development.

From Aug. 8 through Aug. 19, Fort Gordon hosted an Android class in Cobb Hall, which consisted of 38 students from TRADOC, quite a few came from other organizations within the Army and other services, who wrote their first Android apps within the course.

Capt. Nelson H. Powell III from the North Central Information Operations Command in Rochester, N.Y. said, "We're interested in both developing applications for the Army as well as the understanding the security of mobile devices. As reservists, we're able to draw on civilian experience to provide similar services regarding development and possibly hacking/testing of apps, so this course has been an excellent starting point."

The military is still examining the security policies required to connect the phones to government networks, so rapid deployment into tactical or garrison environments is still elusive, but making progress.

A similar class is being offered by civilian computer learning centers costing $5,000 for a 10 day class, which would equate to nearly $200,000 worth of training being offered to the students, at no cost to their organizations, other than TDY.

Capt. Tennille Scott, who is attending the Functional Area 53 qualification course, said, "The class was very challenging from the minute it started until the end. It is probably one of the most difficult military classes I have attended and I hope to use this new skillset to write apps for the Army." Echoing those thoughts, Renee Brokering, from the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command said, "Our command is very interested in exploring the role of mobile devices in the operational environments. I have a deeper understanding of the process to create apps and I am eager to use this knowledge to create real-world apps."

The Mobile Apps Branch will host a similar two-week iPhone training class from 24 October through 4 November. The prerequisites for attending the course include requiring students to have a strong programming background, including experience in object-oriented programming languages like Java or Objective C.