Wednesday, March 15, 2006



I was recently interviewed for a magazine I would best describe as a military trade magazine. (Okay, maybe not “best” describe, but describe the only way I can and keep it confidential. It won’t go to print for a while, I’m not competition but would like to give the reporter the courtesy of not hyping it before it goes to print.)

I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk over why I blog, and what I think about blogging. I thought I’d take the opportunity to expand on some of the dialog that emerged in the interview.

Prior to being activated with the 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division, NY Army National Guard, my Guard unit was due for a 6 month rotation to Bosnia as part of a UN Peacekeeping mission. As our mobilization approached, I discovered several well-known military web logs (blogs, or more specifically MILBLOGS).

I saw how milbloggers like Greyhawk, Citizen Smash, and Blackfive, had an excellent opportunity to comment on all things military from their blogs. Most importantly, their perspectives, insights and commentary stood in sharp contrast to what passes for "Journalism" on the part of mainstream (news) media (MSM). They spoke of "reality on the ground," and in preparing for deployment, I knew they would be good voices to listen to.

Shortly thereafter, our deployment mission changed, and we were going to Iraq. I was a strong supporter of our efforts against Saddam Hussein specifically as a supporter of terror against the US, and in his defiance in the face of repeated injunctions by the UN Security Council. I knew he had weapons of mass destruction, and a proven willingness to use them against ethnic minorities and opponents. I never expected to be part of that effort in the National Guard, but I was proud to be called upon to serve in this way. I made note of Blogger, and what looked like a manageable process to start the blog.

I have always loved to write. Writing has always been a big part of my civilian employment as an Information Technology (IT) Consultant and Project Management Professional (PMP), as well as my military work as an Intelligence Analyst (98C and 96B). I write poetry, for my family, for me. Someday I imagine I will write a novel, or a play. So blogging, and the whole concept of self-publishing in general, looked like the kind of thing I could do, enjoy doing, and maybe make a difference in the information operations (IO) war.

Once I had reliable internet at the mobilization site, I started Dadmanly. A short aside on what happened next.

Anyone who’s tried blogging – apart from those political, media, or other celebrity types who hire someone to create (and write) their blogs – can describe the evolution of the blog for those of us who catch the blog bug. You figure out hyperlinks. You realize the power of the link and the etiquette of linking (usually with some embarrassment and bloggie faux pas). Hopefully you realize earlier rather than later that there will be need for only one Glenn Reynolds (and you ain’t him).

Hopefully you also find a community within which you fit, and thrive. Maybe it’s Blogs for Bush, with an occasional foray into Blogs for Condi (just because she’s so great). I won’t mention the opposition, but they have many thriving communities besides the Daily Kos-mosphere. Blogs4God and Blogdom of God  for the spiritual minded, various regional associations, MILBLOGS for us military types. You add Site Meter, you register in the TTLB Ecosystem, you tinker around with your template, and soon, you’ve caught the bug, bigtime.

One of the big questions for the interview I gave, and one of growing concern to the publication’s readership, had to do with what was described as the “mandatory registration of bloggers,” and what effect that directive would have on MILBLOGGING. I have posted on this several times previously, notably here and here.

I guess I have three takes on this. One, it makes great sense from an Operations Security (OPSEC) standpoint. You need to know what individual bloggers are operating, who might have access to sensitive military information and may not be properly trained (or disciplined) to maintain good OPSEC.

From a public affairs standpoint, I also think it makes good sense operationally to know those "bloggers within the ranks." These individuals, knowingly or not, contribute to military IO. Rather than focus on "editing the message," as some detractors fear, this effort more often does (and should) involve trying to more effectively promote positive views. Views and facts on the ground, by the way, which are otherwise absent from the sometimes pitifully slanted reporting from the MSM.

Our enemies in broader global war on Terror (GWoT) are very adept, and far too successful playing the MSM and foreign media against us. They know how the media game is played, and they often have the upper hand. Bloggers are a vital resource in the GWoT IO war. They'll wage the war with our without military support and encouragement, but do it more effectively if the military appreciates their unique contributions, and works through their natural reluctance to yield control. But they can't take what isn't theirs to take, and the blog phenomena has proven itself determined and resourceful. If they can get around the tyrants in Tehran and Beijing, they will be able to confound the Pentagon brass, who lack the police powers of those kinds of autocracies.

I actually advocate for the development of an additional skill identifier, a credential that the military could promote. This would allow those milbloggers interested in being credentialed training in OPSEC, creative writing, journalism, and HTML and other blogger technical skills. Also, those credentialed bloggers would receive press releases and other useful press access. (I write more about this in one of my Conclusion pieces.)

The third point I would make is that "registration" need hardly be the oppressive control that some might think or rail against. Registration for me consisted of explaining and showing my blog to my Company Commander and Battalion Command Sergeant Major, and identifying myself to an already suspecting (and big time supporter) NCOIC of the Division Public Affairs Office (PAO).

In my view, the most important function of the MILBLOG is to provide information. On-the-ground reporting, and the perspective of those closest to and part of the action.

Relatively few soldiers conduct direct combat operations, although more and more are subjected to potential conflict and violence. Still, everything that happens can potentially be a part of history. In many ways, we have only scratched the surface on capturing what it means to be a soldier, sailor, airman, marine.

What treasure we would have if members of earlier, “greatest” generations had had this technology and communications available? The Vietnam era soldiers. The men and women who fought WWII. The men in blue and grey who fought the Civil War. How much more we would understand wars, the sacrifices they impose, the moral lessons they teach, the humanity they confront. We were there at the inception, and it’s an awesome responsibility. I was honored to be a part of it.

Technology continues to break down barriers to all kinds of opportunities. The world itself grows smaller, with dramatic examples of how really close together all of our lives become. We can squander these opportunities, and concentrate on material possessions and comfort. Or, we can look around at God-given opportunities to make a difference. In the same way the US can no longer ignore the festering sources of terrorism around the world, so too as a people we will suffer later for community problems we ignore today.

Milblogging will become routine. Like other battlefield sensors and communication equipment, cellphones, PDAs, palmtop computers and the like will become ubiquitous. Soldiers will have an opportunity to comment real-time on their experiences, events around them, their actions, and observations. Many will journal. Some who want to, will record subjective impressions.

A few will write, and produce great works of reporting and other prose.


Links: Basil's Blog, bRight & Early, TMH Bacon Bits, Don Surber, Jo's Cafe

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