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The sun rises over Section 15 as soldiers from the Army Old Guard use iPhones to photograph headstones at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Aug. 24, 2011.
The sun rises over Section 15 as soldiers from the Army Old Guard use iPhones to photograph headstones at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Aug. 24, 2011. (Cliff Owen/AP)

Members of the U.S. Army's Old Guard have taken up a new task, one that they perform at night in T-shirts and flip-flops and with iPhones in hand, according to a story by The Associated Press.

The soldiers are using iPhones to photograph the hundreds of thousands of grave markers and the front of thousands of sets of cremated remains in Arlington National Cemetery, the AP reports. It's part of the Army's effort to account for every grave and to update and digitize the cemetery's maps.

The Old Guard performs its work at night to escape the summer heat and to avoid interrupting funerals, the AP says.

Last year a scandal over mismanagement at the burial ground revealed unmarked and mismarked graves. As a result, Congress mandated that the cemetery account for the graves of the more than 330,000 people interred in Arlington.

The nighttime photos are then matched with other records to find discrepancies that need to be fixed, AP notes. Military officials hope they can use the photos to create an online database for the public, the report says.

The soldiers, wearing head lamps for light, have had run-ins with deer and other animals in the cemetery. And they've paused upon seeing freshly dug graves prepared for the next day's funerals.

Their mission is called Task Force Christman, AP reports, in honor of Pvt. William Henry Christman, a Civil War soldier who was the first soldier buried at Arlington.

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