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.


Post a Comment

<< Home