Penn Around is an App for That


By Debbie Gregory.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. That is certainly true in regards to Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Russell. When Russell, a mortar platoon sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment was stationed in South Korea some 15 years ago, he struggled to find his way around.

When a return trip 14 years later showed no improvement in navigation help, Russell sought his own solution..

The self-taught app developer came up with Penn Around, a free mobile app with all the resources a soldier assigned to South Korea might need.

Starting small with just the bus schedules of all the camps, Penn Around now contains a list of U.S. Forces-Korea holidays; movie times for the on-post theater; sexual assault and suicide prevention assistance and resources; events scheduled by Morale, Welfare and Recreation as well as Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers; and Google Translate.

Russell did his due diligence, making sure he went through all the right channels, securing permission from all the right people at every step of the way — a lot of work for a noncommissioned officer who simply wanted to help his soldiers learn how to traverse the Korean Peninsula.

Russell, who is stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, has developed an app called Texas Corral. This app pulls together information from 10 police departments in central Texas, giving users up-to-date news, alerts and information. It also enables users to pay their tolls, fines or fees.

Three more of Russell’s apps are pending final approval before they’re released: Mil Aloha, which was built for troops serving in Hawaii; Mil Euro for troops in Europe; and Mil Japan, for those serving in Japan.

Russell said that while he doesn’t make money on the apps,he does get the satisfaction of knowing he may have helped a soldier answer the same questions he once had.

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