Monday, August 28, 2006


While I (Still) MILBLOG

Greyhawk at Milblogs linked over the weekend to this piece in Today's Officer Magazine. A while back I posted a version of the interview that contributed to this article, which expanded quite a bit beyond what was highlighted. I didn’t recall until I pulled it up in the archives, but it became Why I MILBLOG.

A major impetus for the story was a memorandum from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, requiring milbloggers to “register” with their commanders, and directing commanders to become aware of and monitor soldier blogs for possible OPSEC violations.

As to experiences with "registration," there's a lot less to the directive than one might think. "Registration" isn't a formal process. I met the requirement by discussing it with my Commanding Officer and my Battalion CSM. What they did with that knowledge, I can't say, but then again I stayed away from anything remotely operational, by choice.

Many of the Milbloggers who have voluntarily ceased blogging may have good reasons to think their immediate commands would react negatively or impose too many conditions. I was always afraid my BN Commander would insist on a puff piece highlighting his role. Otherwise, I had no problem.

I've read pieces by some of those most highly complimented for "war realism," and frankly, some have made me uncomfortable. Too much detail on procedures, specific battle drills, BDA, etc. Some have highlighted soldier reactions that are contrary to what good procedures dictate -- like turning the .50 cal on an exposed 155mm shell, which then went off, just missing fellow soldiers. (I cry either BS or “you're an idiot” on that one.)

I have deep respect for Greyhawk, who posts at Mudville Gazette. His blog was the model for many of us. He and Mrs. Greyhawk have long gone way beyond the extra mile in encouraging Milbloggers, and helping us find both voices and audience.

He’s Grandpappy Manly if you know what I mean, and I’d take seriously anything with which he expresses concern. He’s been more troubled by the new policy and some of its implications:

“It has discouraged a lot of folks who are ‘by the rules’ types, the kinds of guy who the Army would most like to have telling the story from Iraq,” he says. “Some are concerned about inadvertent OPSEC violations, others of being accused of violating OPSEC by an overzealous senior. But the maladjusted, antisocial types who really hate the Army aren’t going to play by those rules, so in the end my concern is that you’ll see fewer milblogs from the squared-away, professional military types and more from the bitter extremists.”

I do appreciate the concern that only the malcontents are left if all the positive voices "self-censor," but I think there was a time when there was way too much info out there.

I'd like to think this will be self correcting, as more soldiers are inspired to share their stories, and the military gets smarter about Milblogs, too.

I guess I’m with SGT Hook for a final takeaway, included in the TO article:

“Milbloging will be around as long as blogging is,” says Sergeant Hook. “Just as with anything new, there will be bumps in the road, but they will work themselves out, and milblogs will provide the American people with a great alternative to mainstream media in telling the military’s story.

“Who knows — they might even help recruiting efforts.”

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