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Army mulls giving smart phones for signing up

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WASHINGTON — If signing bonuses, tuition assistance and serving your country aren't enough reason to join the Army, here's one more: get a free smart phone.

The Army is mulling using smart phones as a recruiting tool, outfitting them with applications such as a guide to Army values and programs to monitor physical and psychological health. Some soldiers already have been outfitted with them, said Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, head of initial training for the Army.

Gen. Hertling said officials see the devices mainly as a way of getting Army values and other messages to soldiers at basic training. Hundreds are being distributed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Fort Sill, Okla., and will be returned after basic training in the pilot project. Essentially, the Army has distributed a battalion's worth of smart phones outfitted with Army manuals, he said.

"It has everything a soldier needs to know," Gen. Hertling said at a breakfast with defense reporters.

Some Army officials, including Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of the U.S. Army Accessions Command, said they believe the phones could serve more generally as a recruiting tool, Gen. Hertling told defense reporters recently. Gen. Freakley is a former commander of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division.

Soldiers also can use a body mass calculator and physical fitness calculator on the phones. Another app teaches the Army phonetic alphabet — alpha, bravo, Charlie, for instance — by letting a user select a letter at a time.

The move to smart phones is part of an overall Army search for new ways to teach soldiers, particularly new recruits, Gen. Hertling said. Officials are even considering banishing PowerPoint presentations, a staple in the Defense Department that may not connect as well with 18- or 19-year-olds.

The experiment does raise some questions, Gen. Hertling said. Officials wonder whether recruits might ditch the Army and steal the phone, he said, but they realized the phones have built-in global positioning and easily could be located or turned off remotely so they cannot work.

The Army recently completed an "Apps for the Army" competition, seeking applications for internal use. Officials selected 15 winners and 10 honorable mentions, including apps for physical training, recruiting, mental health, disaster relief and mapping. Applicants proposed a total of 53 programs, the Army said.

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