To connect mobilized troops with the information they need, the US Army will begin testing iPhones, Android devices and other gadgets. The Armed Forces will get their own mobile apps to keep soldiers informed and untethered while in combat.

The United States Army plans to incorporate smartphones into soldiers' standard equipment. Federal News Radio reported the story in October, describing how the Army began using Windows Mobile devices this year to securely check e-mail and other tasks. But more recent reporting shows a plan to switch to the iPhone, Android devices or other mobile gadgets. In this morning's USA Today, Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, says that the Army "would issue these smartphones just like any other piece of equipment a soldier receives."

Mobile devices could drastically change the way that the service trains and fights. An Army program called Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications is currently testing mobile devices for the war zone at Fort Bliss, Texas. The Army plans to begin fielding phones in February, as well as any electronic devices that might be useful to troops.

"We're looking at everything from iPads to Kindles to Nook readers to mini-projectors," said Mike McCarthy, director of the mission command complex of Future Force Integration Directorate at Fort Bliss.

The tests will determine the best way to give soldiers information when they need it, and to do so efficiently and securely. So far, McCarthy is attempting to combine information access with the sort of environment that soldiers will be in. After achieving reliable access in realistically austere settings, the program will move onto classified networks. To do so, they are open to trying out all manner of devices, as ARCIC-Forward director Rickey Smith explains.

Most likely the Army will not develop its own phone, but likely make small alterations to existing devices. They will pay for the phone and likely a "maintenance fee" to cover the calling plan and applications. The soldier will likely be able to choose the training and tactical apps needed.

By Ivory King