Saturday, September 11, 2004

Here are a few questions…. I have several more and will answer em when I get some more time. And thanks for all the positive comments and email by the way… it is appreciated.

1) I really enjoy your site. Thanks for putting out some great content, and answering some good questions. 2) Thank you very much for your service. I know it's not quite what you'd like, but I appreciate you preparing the guys who are going over there. You've chosen a hard, poor paying life, and I wanted to thank you. 3)What do the hash marks on the sleeves of NCO's represent? I assume some measure of time in service? Do only NCO's wear them? 3) Why are combat boots still used? Go fasters seem to prevent a lot of injuries, but I assume there's a good reason boots are still used, besides the fact you can order the trainees to polish them :) Thank you so much for your time and blog.

Hash marks…. The hash marks on the sleeve represent three years of service for each one. Which reminds me… I need to go get another sewed on…

The combat boots are changing as we speak. Right now they are issuing the new style combat boots… that is… what was the new style until they decided to phase them out to introduce new ones with the new uniform… so it is now the old style, even though it’s new. The boots supposedly keep improving, but I would just as soon keep my old jungle boots.

Hello sir!

I am just writing to ask you a some questions about basic training. 1) What advice would you give to someone if they told you that they were going to Ft.Jackson for basic?
Prepare yourself physically, financially, and emotionally to be isolated for 9 weeks. Go into it with a clear head and tell yourself that quitting is simply not an option.

2.) What should someone do to prepare for basic physically? I know that they give you a PT test with the minimum requirements being a mile run in 10:30, 17 situps, and 3 pushups. But if you want to be ahead, how many of each should you be able to do?

That’s up to you. If you want to be an average soldier, keep shoving Twinkies and Mountain Dew down your neck right up till the time you waddle off the plane in Columbia.

If you actually want to excel and push yourself to be something better, try to enter Basic at least close to meeting the minimum standard to pass. If you come in able to do around 13 pushups (for females… 35 for males) 47 situps, and run around an 8-9:00 minute mile, everything after that is gravy. You will be able to focus on maxing instead of passing the APFT and it will take a lot of pressure off of you.

3.) Mentally how should someone prepare themselves for basic?

Harden yourself mentally and just understand that absolute discipline will be expected of you. There will be no friends and family there to help you, so just tell yourself before you leave that there is NO way you will quit. If they break your legs and beat you with sticks and flay the skin from your body you will not break. (We won’t really do those things lol)

4.) How can someone minimize their chances of getting yelled at or in trouble at basic?

Show absolute discipline and respect at all times. Give 110% always.

5.) Is there anything that you wish someone would have told you before you went to basic yourself?

Not really, I wanted basic to be harder.

6.) Being a drill sergeant, what does a soldier do to make you really angry?


I work an average of about 100+ hours a week during Red phase. I put up with anywhere from 40-65 brand new soldiers for 9 weeks and give it my absolute best effort to make them better people and soldiers. We are expected to routinely “suck it up” and drive on when things go wrong. The soldiers are often treated like they were made of eggshells, but for a Drill sergeant to “drive on” with stress fractures or knee injuries or pneumonia or the flu or whatever is routine and expected. Everything we do is for the soldier.

I don’t think I need to be disrespected by some private with about 5 minutes in the Army.
But it usually only happens once lol. ( By the way, I have never heard a soldier cry like I did the other night. This soldier thought she could raise her voice at me. I had been fairly laid back so far this cycle, but after about a half hour she was just wailing lol. Pretty funny… I think she’ll turn out all right though.)

7.) When the soldiers first get to basic, I have been told that they get smoked the first week. What during the first few weeks would constitute being smoked?

You will get smoked every week if you come to my platoon. The only difference is whether I am mad or just scuffing the platoon for general fitness purposes. Usually it is pushups, sometimes we switch it up. If I’m pissed I will get creative and hit every muscle group in the body.

Monday, September 06, 2004

The full article...

Here's the full story with permission by the author....

Soldiers’ blogs become more popular, cause concern for security

MOSUL, Iraq-- With an internet connection, Soldiers can send and post messages around the world. Instants after an event happens, the details can be transmitted back to family and friends in the form of emails and with new simple technology, can be posted in seconds on one of the web’s fastest growing trends, a weblog.A weblog is a personal website that contains dated entries of personal opinions, thoughts and essays. Weblogs often feature links to news articles or other “blogs” on the internet. Blogs have become popular recently because of web services such as Blogger, which make blogging possible even for those who aren’t familiar with website administration.This new technology is becoming an alternative perspective to traditional news sources. With bloggers in every country, every conflict and from every walk of life, people can access online personal accounts of daily events in addition to news coverage. Soldiers’ blogs give the public a more personalized and realistic view of the military and help to educate the public on the Army’s mission here. “Very few people can relate to the idealized image of perfection that comes in a GI Joe box, but everybody can relate to a 19-year-old Private who has a real life, and wife, and kids, one who suffers and complains and then saddles up anyway and gets the job done like soldiers always have,” said Soldier-blogger, Staff Sgt. (DS ROB), whose blog, “An American Soldier”, highlights his life as a basic training drill sergeant.

While phones aren’t always accessible in a combat zone, many Soldiers overseas have access to the internet through Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities. Weblogs are an alternative to emails for Soldiers to keep in touch with families and friends. Through a weblog, Soldiers can post a running personal account of daily events that is always available for view. Soldiers can also receive and respond to comments from readers through the blog’s comments feature. “At first, my blog was a way to keep my friends and family updated, but as folks outside my immediate family and friends began hearing about it, it grew rather quickly,” said Sgt. Chris M******. “With more people reading it, I became much more cognizant of what it was I was writing.”

Just as blogs can provide family and friends with information, blogs can also provide an opportunity for the enemy to gain valuable information that can be used in future attacks. What may seem like innocent information could be valuable knowledge to someone who knows what they are looking for. Much of the information that is collected by terrorist organizations is a compilation of information gathered from unclassified sources. Soldiers are representatives of the US military and their words can be taken to reflect the views of the US military. Something as simple as a negative comment, written in frustration, can be used by the enemy to portray the Multinational Forces in a bad light. Because what is posted on a weblog is free to the public, it can be used by the media and quoted to represent the facts and opinions of the military. In this sense, the views of a disgruntled specialist could be published as the views of all servicemembers, putting the military in a bad light. “I try not to divulge any information in my blog that I don’t have to. I know that things that seem innocent to most people could be put together by a skilled analyst and paint a bigger picture,” said (DS ROB).Subjects that are not acceptable to speak about on the phone or in letters or emails are also off limits to publishing on the web.

There is currently no specific military policy regarding weblogs, but the Department of Defense lays out basic Operational Security guidance in its Directive 5205.2. Some important areas of sensitivity in military situations are: military movements, activities, specific unit information and base security. Specific times or dates of future operations or movements should never be disclosed. Even figures such as guard duty hours or specific work hours shouldn’t be discussed. The enemy, like a thief or robber, watches for patterns to learn when the best time to strike is. The element of surprise is an important factor in many operations. The location of future or current operations should not be disclosed if the knowledge of this location could tip off the enemy to attack. If terrorists know there will be a raid in a specific neighborhood on a specific night, chances are they’re not going to be there. Details about military activities can also be revealing. If a terrorist knows that “every time we raid a house we enter from the front door and we bring ten people…” or “when we go out on patrol we always leave at the same time and take the same route…” it could assist him in planning an attack. Information about how base security is handled can help a terrorist to breach security for an attack on the base. Never disclose information about how many guards there are at the gate, the hours they usually perform vehicle searches, where the perimeter is the weakest or the location of weapons systems that are used to guard the gates to military bases.

Some bloggers have come up with suggestions about how to keep sensitive information out of their posts. 1st Lt. Jason Van S******* served as the executive officer for a light infantry company in Iraq before he returned to the U.S. in March. His blog, “Countercolumn”, was seen by an average of 2000 people each day in January. His advice to other Soldiers who want to start blogging is to, “concentrate on how the war affects the people around you, and how those around you cope with fear, stress, boredom, loneliness and tell those stories honestly and you won’t violate OPSEC.”

As a communications specialist, M***** deals with Operational Security issues every day. He knows the consequences that can occur when information gets into the wrong hands. “My one suggestion is to question everything you write. I look at every post and say to myself, does this put any soldiers’ lives or security at risk or does this reveal any information that would be beneficial to the enemy and does this portray the military in a negative light? If I ever have to answer yes to any of these questions, I simply won’t post it,” he said.In addition to proofreading, leadership can offer suggestions and a second opinion when operational security is in question. A noncommissioned officer or officer in your chain of command can provide a more specific idea of what may or may not be sensitive information in your area of operation. After reading his blog, M*****’s command set some basic rules and encouraged him to continue writing. “My commander said that my blog so far was great and gave me a list of items that I need to stay away from discussing. I have followed his suggestions thoroughly. From day one they never discouraged me from writing and said they felt it was beneficial for me and my readers.”

The Army has always encouraged Soldiers to write about their experiences as a way of dealing with the psychological impacts of war. Blogging can be a way for Soldiers to do this, as long as they keep operational security in mind. “I think most soldiers, once they step back and look at the big picture, would understand the need for some moderation. I am proud of the Army and of my job, so I let that show in my writing,” said (DS ROB).

Sunday, September 05, 2004

My fifteen seconds of fame...

I'm all excited...

I didn't exactly get a story of my own published, but I was interviewed for a story by one of our soldiers in Iraq about military blogging and the need for OPSEC (Operational Security). It is going to be published in an army command publication and may be picked up by the Scimitar, which I guess is a newspaper printed in Baghdad for the general military population in and around Iraq. I was quoted three times in the story. :)

I'm not going to reprint his story until I get permission, but I will reprint the interview here....

Why did you start your blog?

I actually started my blog to practice my writing. I used to write a little bit before I joined the Army and had gotten out of the habit since then. I have always read a lot and wanted to be able to write a book someday. Unfortunately, I’ve found that I lack the endurance (so far) to write much more than a short story.

That lack of endurance translates well to the short, essay length pieces of writing that I usually end up with on the blog.As a Drill Sergeant, I work pretty long hours and sometimes come home frustrated or agitated. Sitting down and writing something gives me a chance to decompress and relax a little bit. I imagine it's somewhat the same for some of the guys over there, who are in a way harder situation than I am.

What was the original purpose for your blog?

Originally it was just a place to write and see what happened. I think my first few posts were about deer hunting last season. Before too long though, it turned into a sort of weird hybrid between Mail Call and the O’Reilly factor. I’ve answered a couple of military history questions and I sometimes write essays about political or social issues from a fairly conservative point of view. I also answer some questions about Basic Training for recruits who are getting ready to ship or civilians who want to join theArmy. I actually have a link on my blog that leads to . I don’t know if anyone’s ever clicked on it, but it couldn’t hurt.

What did you know about OPSEC before you began blogging?

I’m pretty aware of OPSEC in what I write. I tend to be more paranoid than some people when it comes to that. There is not much that I write about that would be sensitive, but I still try not to divulge any information that I don’t have to. I know that things that seem innocent to most people could be put together by a skilled analyst and paint a bigger picture.

Does your command know about your blog?

I don’t really advertise it, and I don’t blog from work, but yes, most of the people I work with know about the blog.

Did your leadership ever talk to you about what you can/can’t post, did theyever lay down any ground rules?

I’m not really in a situation where that would be much of an issue. I haven’t been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan yet and as a Drill Sergeant my job doesn’t involve much that would be sensitive - at least not that would be interesting enough to write about. For a soldier in a combat situation itwould be a little different. I think most soldiers, once they step back and look at the big picture, would understand the need for some moderation. I am proud of the Army and of my job, so I let that show in my writing. And if I do have a problem with something at work or with the Army, I keep it to myself. There’s really nothing to be gained by sniveling about it in public.

Do you know what DoD policy is regarding blogging?

No. Actually I did a search a little while ago looking for it and didn’t come up with anything. I would like to though.

Do you have any basic rules/suggestions for keeping secure stuff off yourposts?

Basically, just proofread everything before you post it. Stay away from numbers and specific places, units, and times. As far as information on weapon systems or tactics, take a look around at some of the Army or DoD sites. I figure once they put it out there for the public it’s probably ok to write about it. But when in doubt, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

Why do you think soldier's perspectives are important?

I think that it is beneficial for people to see a fairly unvarnished view oflife in the military. Our society is increasingly skeptical and cynical, and for a certain segment of the population the only way to gain and keep their respect is to stay away from the Hollywood style recruiting posters and justlet them see the reality of the situation. Our soldiers are doing an outstanding job around the world, under adverse conditions and in terrible situations. They have left their lives and families behind and gone wherever they were sent to do their duty. By allowing people to see the real soldier, warts and all, it makes the sacrifice and commitment of those soldiers all the more real to civilians back home. Very few people can relate to the idealized image of perfection that comes in a GI Joe box. But everybody can relate to a 19 year old Private who has a real life, and wife, and kids -one who suffers and complains and then saddles up anyway and gets the job done like soldiers always have. A good example from the past would be Bill Mauldin’s “Willie and Joe” cartoons. With a few high profile exceptions, everybody loved those cartoons because they depicted a couple of dirty, tired, rough grunts who had realistic personalities in the middle of a bad situation.

As a soldier in the US, how have Soldier's blogs in the middle east helped to keep you informed about the war?

Since I’m stuck on the trail (*cough* involuntary extension *cough*) instead of over there doing my job as an Infantryman, I have become a news junkie. I spend a lot of time reading both the mainstream news and individual blogs. There are a lot of good writers over there and they paint a better picture of life on the ground than you will find in the “normal” media. Some of it is fairly mundane and some of it is really interesting.

As a leader, what are some things that could cause problems with soldier's blogs?

I would hate to edit or stop a soldier’s writing. On the other hand, blogging is basically self-publishing on the internet, so if they were publishing something blatantly critical of the United States Army, chain of command or our foreign policy then that would be “prejudicial to good order and discipline” and they would be in violation of the UCMJ. And of course, if they were posting information that threatened to cross the line of good OPSEC that would be a major issue. I would most likely counsel them to moderate themselves first and take further action if they refused to listen.