Friday, May 11, 2007

OPSEC and some advice to survive at Milblogging

The release of Army Regulation 530-1 has caused a rather large stir in the milblogosphere causing a great cry to go up to the powers that be. Myself? I think it’s too early to judge, the rules could use some clarification but they need to be measured between the losses and potential gains. Being a milblogger, I personally know many people who obsess about the war; they’re constantly looking for new sources of information about what is going on to the troops on the ground.

Milbloggers fill the void that is left by the military reporting and the main stream media. With the gap between the military and the civilian world widening each year, the military seems to be it’s own little country separated by an ever growing gulf. Less then one person out of a hundred in our nation is serving and there isn't much of a voice for the military in average community. Some circles look at this war as a military only war, there's a great devide between the civilian and military worlds. Milblogging could be a bridge that closes that gap.

Milbloggers offer an uncensored, unedited look at the life of one individual. For us, this isn’t a job, we’re not paid by the government or the media, we’re writing because we enjoy it and want to share it with the people back home. And believe it or not, each one of us is well versed in OPSEC, we have to go through fairly rigorous annual training that frankly makes me a little paranoid each time I go through it and each year they update the training to current technology. I’m not going to go into the details but I assure you, it’s comprehensive. And for those who do violate OPSEC, well they should have thought before they pushed the publish button. Milblogging isn't for those who lack common sense.

Case in point look at my blog, I have not posted information other that I was at an air base in Iraq. I didn’t write about my unit other then in generals, there aren’t numbers or stats. Most of my stories center around human interaction, funny, food, books, projects I was working on, how we lived day to day. In reality? My life was pretty boring, as any body out there can tell you, when Doc is bored, everyone is happy (I never get bored). Even with 3 deployments, I don’t have many battle stories to tell, I’m a medic with helicopter transport squadron, my first trip flying CASEVAC there was definitely some close calls but my second two? I flew a desk. If there was a battle going on, something is definitely going wrong.

CNN quoted my blog in an October entry about a mortar attack, the actual mortar attack I was talking about happened in the spring of 2004. I rewrote an earlier entry that was originally posted on 31st of March 2004. There’s always a first time for everything that was my first taste of war. I wrote it right after it incident but I saved it till it would no longer make a difference if I told it or not. Yes there were people hurt, but I didn’t see that personally so I didn’t write about them.

Rules I would follow to stay out of trouble, Smash came out with two that should keep most people out of trouble.

1. Don't violate OPSEC. Never name your unit, be vague about your location and mission, and don't use anyone's real name. (too late for mine, it’s already all over the world)

2. Be careful what you say about your seniors. Don't write anything about a superior in your blog that you wouldn't want that person to read back to you

Another rule he had, “When you publish a post, write it like, one, your mother will read it, two, Osama Bin Laden will read it and three, your commander will read it.”

Think, could someone use this information to kill me or mine? If yes, don’t post it. If it’s going to get someone you work with in trouble, don’t post it. If you just got done with the battle of the century and want to get it down before you forget it, by all means write the story and sit on it and read it over and over, fix the typos. If you plan on post it online, do another edit covering OPSEC. If it looks like you’re not going to be able to tell the proper story with the editing then save it for a book or for posting after you get out of the military. There are too many stories out there that are left untold, if it’s important to you, write it down. A hot blog post is like money in the pocket but don’t spend it. If it’s something you think might cause waves, run it by the PAO. Believe it or not, they’re not monsters.

Remember, once you put it online, everything you write is can be googled.

This is what I add to the list above you want to survive at milblogging:

Don’t use blogging to jump the chain, if it’s something you need to report. Then go through the proper channels, blogs aren’t places to vent about your boss (at least in the military) or report abuse.

Don’t use someone’s name if they don’t want you too, if you do, it’s going to come back and bite you. If you post pictures of people, ask their permission.

Don’t write bad things about your boss or coworkers unless you have their permission (yes, I do have a few of those posts and did get their permission, they laughed after reading)

Don’t disclose confidential information or work related legal proceedings which includes future missions or standard operating procedures for battle (if you’re special ops, don’t give away your spook secrets)

Don’t take pictures of the fortifications or pictures of the base from the air.

Don’t use other peoples work without their permission or at least linking back to them saying that you stole, borrowed, hat tipped from them.

Don’t be the first one to report the death of anybody, if you want to write a eulogy, wait till the next of kin is notified and that is something that should be cleared by the chain.

Don’t be afraid to blog, there are thousands of people out there that want to know what the real story is on the ground and each of our stories is different in flavor and character.

Don’t let blogging be a job, blog because you want to.

Don't forget common sense.

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