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Blog It, Soldier!

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loose lips

A small victory for openness from a surprising quarter:

At one of the Army's leading intellectual hubs…, the commanding general there has directed his troops to start blogging. Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who heads the Combined Arms Center [CAC] and Ft. Leavenworth, told his soldiers in a recent memo that "faculty and students will begin blogging as part of their curriculum and writing requirements both within the .mil and public environments. …

Lt. Gen. Caldwell, the former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, is a blogger himself, contributing to Small Wars Journal. He made waves in January when he wrote that "we must encourage our Soldiers to… get onto blogs and to send their YouTube videos to their friends and family."

Of course, this is goes against the military's current official position. Remember the YouTube ban on military networks? There's even a mini campaign inside the military at the moment, along the lines of the old "Loose Lips Sink Ships" posters, reminding soldiers that blogging can compromise security

But my bet is that Lt. Gen. Caldwell's way of thinking will win out in the end. The idea, he says, is "telling the Army's story to a wide and diverse audience." More openness, not less, will reconnect the average American with the average soldier–something pro- and anti-war factions should both want to see, each for their own reasons.

Why not have a few classes reminding soldiers not to post sensitive material (and reminding them what "sensitive material" includes) and then let 'em have at it?

Via Danger Room 

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  1. Just as long as we get catty gossip blogs as well. There has to be an outlet for pointing out that those fatigues makes Lt. Smith thighs look huge.

    (They do, you know…)

  2. This is an official endorsement for something that has been going on for a long time in the Army. The Army edicational system has been broke for years. The Army schools are generally run by passed over LTCs and guys who have been out of loop for a long time and are passing time to retirement. You have to experience an Army school to know just how bad some of them are.

    As a result, junior officers started creating websites and informal networks to educate themselves. Companycommander.com is a best example of this. The Army does not give young officers the basic information they need when they assume company command. So, the officers started their own website as a repository for that information.

    Hopefully this portends the end to the old Army schooling system of death by power point and the rise of a more flexible and useful educational system.

  3. Why not have a few classes reminding soldiers not to post sensitive material (and reminding them what “sensitive material” includes) and then let ’em have at it?

    Because humans do dumb shit sometimes. (See: Sniper, Koran)

  4. In the current environment, I doubt that loose lips jeopardize “security” as much as they risk bursting the bubble of official Pentagon propaganda.

    The Pentagon came down on military bloggers at the same time that the Iraqi government banned photographers and cameramen from the sites of terrorist attacks. It had little to do with “security” and everything to do with trying to stop the flow of images of war to the public, in a blatant attempt to interfere with political debate on the war on terror.

  5. More propoganda from those blood-and-oil soaked BU$HCO stooges is just not what we need.

  6. The youtube ban is a bandwidth issue, not a security and/or polmil issue

  7. The youtube ban is a bandwidth issue, not a security and/or polmil issue

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Yeah, OK.

  8. Now I don’t feel so dirty anymore.

    Rank: SPC MOS: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

  9. http://www.cpj.org/attacks07/mideast07/iraq07.html

    The Iraqi interior ministry announced on May 13, 2007 that news crews would be banned from the sites of terror attacks.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=454738&in_page_id=1811

    The Department of Defense announced the YouTube ban on May 14, 2007.

    They barely went through the motions of trying to conceal that this ban was part of “surge” operations. The statement that the issue was bandwidth related was openly laughed at here and overseas.

  10. But my bet is that Lt. Gen. Caldwell’s way of thinking will win out in the end. The idea, he says, is “telling the Army’s story to a wide and diverse audience.” More openness, not less, will reconnect the average American with the average soldier–something pro- and anti-war factions should both want to see, each for their own reasons.

    I agree. Wouldn’t it be nice if all government functionaries thought that way.

  11. Regarding military security, I just had to bring this up.

    Ted Striker: My orders came through. My squadron ships out tomorrow. We’re bombing the storage depots at Daiquiri at 1800 hours. We’re coming in from the north, below their radar.
    Elaine Dickinson: When will you be back?
    Ted Striker: I can’t tell you that. It’s classified.

  12. But my bet is that Lt. Gen. Caldwell’s way of thinking will win out in the end. The idea, he says, is “telling the Army’s story to a wide and diverse audience.” More openness, not less, will reconnect the average American with the average soldier–something pro- and anti-war factions should both want to see, each for their own reasons.

    Actually, this is a lot closer to what has been going on for quite a while. The only “crackdowns” have been when people were creating OPSEC problems.

    Why not have a few classes reminding soldiers not to post sensitive material (and reminding them what “sensitive material” includes) and then let ’em have at it?

    In spite of the annual training requirement for soldiers with .mil access, there needs to be more of this.

    Even on the AKO forums (the us.army.mil ‘blog) people get a little loose with the info.

  13. Oh, K M-W,

    Feel free to let the others know what network I am posting from today, if you like.

  14. Yeah, OPSEC is a bitch sometimes.

  15. I remember a story of WWI-era intelligence, when “name-rank-serial number” still meant something when being interrogated.

    Country X gave their troops serial numbers which basically categorized them right down to the platoon level; ie Jones, John, Private, serial # 12345678 was in the first army, second brigade, third division, fourth regiment, 5th company, sixth platoon, and was soldier number 8.

    It didn’t take the other side long to figure this out and, from the serial numbers of those captured, they were able to get a good idea of where country X had deployed its troops.

    The point being that valuable intelligence can be derived from seemingly innocent details. I’m not entirely convinced that Gen. Caldwell’s idea is a good one.

  16. We had one within the past year or two where a Troop got shot through a vulnerable spot in his protective vest.

    He turned around and ‘blogged the details, complete with a diagram of where the vest failed, then there was a big intertubes fit about his having to take the entry down and being scolded for it. Talk of a “chilling effect”, etc.

    Now, if the “chilling effect” was keeping people from giving enemy snipers more effective impact points then I am all for it. If it goes beyond that notion, then not so much.

  17. Really depends on your command on whether or not you can blog. I guess I got lucky. The Soviet-style control of information favored by many cold-war era officers is starting to go way, and props to LTG Caldwell for facilitating this process.

    Most OPSEC violations are committed by the press anyways, and I once watched on CNN as Barbara Starr pointed out where mortars were landing inside a base nearby (thanks for dialing them in, Barb!).

  18. Fluffy-
    Sorry I couldn’t respond sooner; I just got out of a VTC on how to plant explosives in downtown office buildings undetected, and then my boss was getting all up in my grill because I’m behind on my HFCS quota.

    Seriously, your 3:58 is a coincidence.

    1) There is no shortage of ‘war pr0n’ on youtube, (or liveleak or others) since the ban.

    2) At least in the Pacific AOR, all bases that I have been to have MWR facilities that do allow access to youtube, flickr, and other sites blocked by .mil. However, I have never been to CENTCOM, it may be different there.

  19. Kolohe,

    We have access to Youtube, flickr in MWR areas in Iraq. I think the Youtube thing is to prevent goof-offs for us staff weenie types.

  20. Country X gave their troops serial numbers which basically categorized them right down to the platoon level; ie Jones, John, Private, serial # 12345678 was in the first army, second brigade, third division, fourth regiment, 5th company, sixth platoon, and was soldier number 8.

    We fixed that. Now we use the soldier’s Social Security number and implant microchips on dog tags.

  21. On a semi-related topic, I used to go to Small Wars Journal a lot right after I got out of the Army, and I found their site to be home to a pretty open-minded group that posted some really great stuff about military-related issues (particularly in regards to opinions and perceptions of the ongoing wars). The articles were usually well-researched and argued, they didn’t shout people down, and they offered a perspective that most civilians aren’t really exposed to. They’re definitely worth a read.

  22. http://captainj0e.wordpress.com/

    Well, this guy’s blog revealed nothing about “opsec” but questioned enough things that he had to make it “private.” I can still read it, but that’s only because the author allows me, and I fear he got into trouble because I posted links to his pieces in an inconvenient place…
    JMR

  23. Almost everything found with the google query ‘”for official use only” site:.mil -form’ is sensitive (but not classified) and is a potential security violation to make available on the Internet. That fact that that query has over 9000 hits is making it hard for them to crack down on the bloggers too hard.

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