The military so far has had a rocky relationship with smartphones. Troops have given them mixed reviews in battle scenarios, and officials are still trying to figure out how they can be used for all of the unclassified, day-to-day business conducted on bases stateside and around the world.
Meanwhile, service members themselves continue to develop apps to move the process along.
More than 20,000 users have downloaded the Military Traveler mobile app developed by Marine Corps Capt. Tony Hatala and Navy Lt. Billy Griffin. Hatala came up with the idea after having been transferred so often that he never had time to familiarize himself with his surroundings. He is currently on another overseas deployment.
Information about places and services on base often is outdated and available only through a variety of unrelated sources, Griffin said.
Available for free on iPhone and Android, Military Traveler seeks to gather all of this information, from banks and restaurants to commissaries and duty officers, and put it in one easy-to-find directory.
“Our goal is to have every establishment on base . . . on every base in the country,” Griffin said. “That’s our goal right now. We’re not there, but it gets better every day.”
The team receives new information from service members that helps them update directory information within the app. Users also can post pictures and reviews similar to websites such as Yelp. There is currently information available for about 230 bases.
“You can go pick up a phonebook at the exchange for $10 or get this for free on your phone, and I guarantee this is better than the phonebook,” Griffin said.
Hatala and Griffin now have a contract with the Army to license individual versions of the app to certain bases so the content can be controlled on post. They are in the process of licensing it to even more Army and Marine Corps locations.
“The military is looking at adopting a platform like this,” Griffin said. “It’s just a question of whether they build their own and take five years and not have it be standardized or useful, or whether they leverage the technology that’s out there.”