A man who received a double-arm transplant late last year is now able to send text messages, the U.S. Army says.

Brendan Marrocco lost all four limbs in an explosion while serving in Iraq in 2009, becoming the first soldier in the war to survive under such conditions. An all-star team comprised of surgeons, nurses and other specialists from around the country performed the operation in mid-December at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

As Marrocco heals, newly attached nerves grow at a rate of an inch per month, says Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Basile, who assisted the transplant team and is also assistant chief of plastic surgery and director of microsurgery at Walter Reed Bethesda, one of the country's largest military hospitals. Soon, the nerves will reach the full length of his arms, allowing him to regain feeling in his fingers. Beyond playing with his phone, Marrocco hopes to one day regain the ability to drive--and to regain more of his independence.

"Now, I can move my elbow. I can rotate it a little bit," Marrocco says. "It feels amazing. It's something I was waiting for a long time. ...It's just fantastic."

Marrocco's doctors say he made for a good transplant candidate given his good mental attitude as well as sufficient bulk muscle and nerve material. The transplant team successfully connected their patient to the donor arms, which involved skin, nerves, muscle, tendon and bone. The Army says they even consider skin tone in finding a suitable donor match for the recipient.

Basile says the military hopes the procedure becomes commonplace in the future as doctors look to transplant other body parts, too. "With every case, we learn more and more about what works better and what doesn't," Basile says.