Those who live near Army installations now have an app to help find information about a variety of programs, services and offices on the installation.
The Digital Garrison app is a free download at your Apple and Google Play app stores.
Digital Garrison is a joint partnership between Army Installation Management Command and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. It connects those eligible to use installation services with information about those services, ranging from child care to fitness and recreation options, to privatized housing offices and medical facilities.
AAFES officials are in the process of talking to Air Force officials about a similar app for their installations, said Karen Cardin, AAFES’ senior vice president of customer experience.
While some Army garrisons had developed their own apps in the past, they were inconsistent in cost, security levels and their ability to update information, said Scott Malcom, spokesman for Army Installation Management Command. By working with AAFES, officials have ensured the app is compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act, which drives DoD and the Army cybersecurity rules and policies, he said. AAFES has long provided a secure online shopping portal, and also operates the Exchange Credit Program’s Military Star card for all the exchanges and the commissary system.
“Digital Garrison provides information at the ready to improve the quality of life for soldiers and their families,” said Lt. Gen. Douglas Gabram, commanding general of Army Installation Management Command, in an announcement about the app. “Staying connected as a community is key to strengthening readiness and resiliency.”
The app was publicly announced Tuesday, but has been available in a soft launch since the last week of July. To date, there have been about 4,500 downloads of the app, and most of the feedback has been positive, said Malcom.
Those using the app can customize it to their particular installation, and can sign up for push notifications from the installation officials for important information such as inclement weather or active shooters, for example. If you move or travel to a different location, you just change the location. It will have the same look and feel in the app, said Malcom. The app is designed to make interactions easier for newcomers coming into the installation. It’s directly, securely tied in with installations’ web sites, so that when information is updated on the sites, it’s automatically available on the app, officials said.
It offers access to ShopMyExchange.com, where you can log in to see prices and order online, and the ability to order curbside pickup from most AAFES main exchange stores. You can also browse deals and weekly ads.
Currently 62 Army installations participate out of the 75 active Army installations that IMCOM manages, including some overseas. Some others don’t currently participate for various reasons, but may be brought on later, Malcom said. Army garrisons that are part of some joint bases that are under the jurisdiction of another military branch, such as Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, which is run by the Air Force, don’t participate in the app.
There are some things notably missing, however, like commissaries. And there aren’t any plans to include private enterprises such as banks and credit unions into the app, said Malcom.
The Defense Commissary Agency is a separate entity, and those responsible for the app are working with commissary officials to introduce some basic capabilities to the app later this month or early in September, said Malcom. Digital Garrison will link to the local garrison flyer for commissary sales and promotions, and link to the Click2Go website, if that service is available at their commissary. Click2Go enables customers to order groceries online and pick them up curbside, and is currently available at six installations, including three Army installations in Virginia — Fort Lee, Fort Eustis and Fort Belvoir.
It’s a work in progress. In some cases, it’s not clear where certain offices are, such as the household goods office. Malcom said officials are working to refine some categories.
And right now, you can’t order meals ahead, or reserve a tee time, or make other interactive transactions other than shopping on the app, but more of that is coming, officials said, as they’re in the process of testing that capability. But the contact information for those services is readily available, so you can make a quick phone call, they noted.
It could also be helpful to the newly eligible customers, including the service connected disabled veterans, to explore some of the options for shopping, restaurants and recreation. While information isn’t currently available on the app about whether the particular recreation option is open to these shoppers, they can call the number to find out.
Last summer, there were separate efforts to develop apps for information on installations, Malcom said, until AAFES and IMCOM joined efforts. But if they’d stayed on those separate tracks, he said, “someone coming on base would have had to use three different apps” to accomplish the same task.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.