Thursday, December 14, 2006
Profile: The MILBLOGGERS
All of my previous profiles have dealt with National Guard soldiers who deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, or their families. This profile is a little different, written as a tribute to my good friends, comrades in arms and words, my brothers and sisters of the world wide web, the MILBLOGGERS. Not pajama clad, but camouflaged!
I previously attempted this profile of my fellow MILBLOGGERS. Earlier, I ended up writing about the significance of stories to soldiers, stories about their experiences, humorous anecdotes, remembrances, just stories, before I was very far into it at all. Best now to read that earlier post as preface to this profile of the MILBLOGGERS.
In Soldier Stories, I described concentric circles of shared experience, the strongest and tightest of all, the connection within a unit, and of shared command.
That’s how I think about MILBLOGGERS. Like the fellow soldiers of my unit, we’ve shared a mission. We fought together, in a very real sense, against media misrepresentations and the sometime indifference of our own nation or its leaders. We boosted each other up, we encouraged and sustained, we motivated. We worked through events together, covering scandal or history in the making, found perspective, described context, in short, told stories. Our stories, and our story telling, became the strongest bond of all.
My compatriot MILBLOGGERS may not wear the uniform anymore, and surely they write as private citizens, not soldiers or airmen or sailors or marines, but their identities are forever imprinted with their military service. For some, they are more Marine or Soldier, than they are anything else. Some are warriors and leaders. Some consider themselves technicians, planners, specialists, or trades people in their craft, the “Yeomen” and “Yeowomen” of their military profession. All are servants of their country.
The MILBLOGGER carries his or her military service as a badge of honor, and carry within their work as deep appreciation of the debt they owe either their respective services, or at least their fellow service folk.
But they share more than service, in writing the military story, they all share a mission. Quite possibly, they are engaged in the truest form of history writing, perhaps the first generation of soldiers and airmen and sailors and marines who so immediately, near real time, create the core fibers and crude fabric from which the tapestry of history will be woven.
I always think most of all of the most Veteran MILBLOGGERS, and what the landscape must have looked like back in the early days, before so many MILBLOGGERS joined them in the fight. They had a vision of what could be, which they translated into tasking, and what must have been a plan as detailed as any Operations Order (OPORD).
You see the sense of mission and dedication from the Greyhawks at Mudville Gazette. Foremost, in the initial creation of the MILBLOG Ring, the foundation of so much to follow. Then the Open Posts, and Mrs. Greyhawk’s Dawn Patrol. Eventually, the establishment of our group Blog, MILBLOGS.
Unless you’re a new MILBLOGGER just starting out, struggling for readership, links, and some attention, it’s perhaps difficult to fully appreciate what the Greyhawks gave to us, how much they labored, how much of what they did each and every day, was motivated by the simple desire to give other military voices a chance to be heard.
I can still remember, as “non-technical” as I am, sending emails back and forth to Mrs. G, trying to figure out the HTML enough to make the MILBLOG Ring image display and link back to Mudville. I was some 3 hours ahead of their time zone in Germany, and adopted a blogging schedule in Iraq to take maximum advantage of the timing of Mudville’s Open Post, or to time my posts so that I could send link to the Mrs. for Dawn Patrol.
Greyhawk and Mrs. G. also moderated the online portion of our first ever 2006 MILBLOG Conference earlier this year. When I think of it, that’s what the Greyhawks have done all along: gave all of our voices a place, and a good jolt of amplification every now and then, to help them be heard.
Blackfive charts a different course, but accomplishes much the same result. Ever the entrepreneur, Matthew Burden has single-handedly built a fine Group Blog in its own right, replete with Enforcers like Jimbo, and deep thinkers like Grim, Subsunk, Froggy (also of Froggy Ruminations), and Mr. Grim, to name but a few. He’s the driving force that brought The Blog of War into being, and keeps up the alarm over Department of Defense (DoD) policies and practices that restrict and may threaten the demise of the MILBLOG.
No doubt inspired by the Greyhawks – or was it the other way ‘round? -- Smash and the most beautiful (alongside Mrs. Manly, of course) Mrs. Smash formed a great blogging team with their Military Outpost, and otherwise blogging as LT Smash, Citizen Smash and Mrs. Smash, over at the Indepundit. Smash serves a valuable public service, exposing the venal (and ignorant) sides of “anti-war” protests and protesters, routinely in San Diego, and for a time, in Washington D.C. in and around Walter Reed.
SGT Hook, after being one of the first and more well-renowned MILBLOGGERS, retreated into silence, no doubt due to operational blackout requirements, and recently re-emerged with a new mission and new purpose in blogging, with a series of Leader profiles.
When I first started reading MILBLOGS, before I ever stepped up to do any myself, one of the first blogs I read routinely was Jason Von Steenwyk’s Countercolumn. I remember he wrote several posts on leadership, and I even clipped and included a few in a unit newsletter (before I learned to proper etiquette for attribution and crediting sources).
Andi of Andi’s World has helped launch a new companion to MILBLOGS, SpouseBUZZ. There and at their home blogs, Andi and her fellow MILSPOUSES wax poetic on the trials, tribulations, joy and transcendence of close association with a loved one in military service. (Not to mention the same range of experiences just being in close association as a Spouse, military or otherwise.)
This may surprise some, but surely not the MILBLOGGERS, when I say there are real live journalists among us: Michael Yon, Bill Roggio, and Michael Fumento . These fine war correspondents represent the epitome (and among the few practitioners of a new journalistic tradecraft
While not technically a MILBLOGGER, in my view Jules Crittenden is quickly earning a place as an honorary MILBLOG. As both City Editor and Columnist for the Boston Herald and blogger, Jules is that rare breed of writer proficient and conversant with both old media, and new. That, and he’s rock solid behind the US Military and our mission against Global Terror.
While more analysts than reporters, I would also include Austin Bay and Josh Manchester in this category, as their military analysis of ongoing operations surpasses anything written elsewhere in media.
I will inevitably slight any MILBLOGGER who I don’t mention specifically, but I would certainly be remiss without a mention of The Donovan of Castle Argghhh! John and his Castle Denizens serve admirably and with a fair amount of fun and humor, with armament and equipment puzzlers (can you name this explosive device), daily HRI Fires, and of course, news of Fuzzybear Lioness and Captain Z’s inspired Project Valour-IT.
Two other group MILBLOGS deserve special mention as well, The Gentlemen at OPFOR, and Papa Ray and the Old War Dogs. OPFOR has often charged to the forefront of controversies and military issues of the day with energy and enthusiasm, quickly earning the respect and admiration of their fellow MILBLOGGERS. Papa Ray started his blogging career as a frequent commenter (at Dadmanly and elsewhere), and now with his fellow Old War Dogs, keeps nipping at the heels of those who would bring discredit upon the uniformed services.
My regular readers – what few remain – no doubt noticed that I have had to severely curtail my blogging. My family has recently experienced tragedy in the loss of a beloved one. I also found myself taking far too many liberties with my time and attention in the compulsion of blogging.
After I’d been back stateside from OIF III for a few weeks, I found myself at a crossroad. Home, I lacked the luxury of free time and excusal from day to day concerns of family, marriage, parenthood, and even work, that I experienced in Iraq.
No cracks please. In Iraq, we worked 7 days a week, but our duty day lasted about 10-12 hours, pretty much coincident with the departure, return, and recovery of our logistics convoys. With no distractions from nightlife, alcohol, games of chance, or any number of others, the rest of the time between sleep and sleep were available for blogs and blogging. Being back home meant I had to go back to work, reconnect, and share my time with the people and things that truly make life worth living, but after all expect something more in return, such as my time and attention.
When I came to that crossroad, at first I thought I would give up blogging altogether. I remember discussing this briefly with an old on-line colleague, Mustang 23 at Assumption of Command. When last we conversed, he wasn’t sure he’d return to blogging, and unless I’ve missed a new venue, he hasn’t.
At some point, I tipped towards one last fling at it. Politics, the situation in Iraq, and all the usual blog introspection, where blogs talk about other blogs, talking about blogging.
It was fun for a while. I scored a couple of very modest Instalaunches, I reconnected with old online friends, and made some new ones. I had a chance to do some TV interviews, even a never-to-be-seen piece for Katie Couric’s freeSpeech. But it was taking me away from more important things, and getting in the way of higher priorities.
I remember a blogger announcing her retirement saying she started blogging to help get herself to write. When blogging kept her from serious writing, it was time to give it up.
So I’ve come to the end of one mission, awaiting reassignment for another. My fingers are limbered up, I have plots and themes in pocket, and Higher Guidance in view.
There will be missions, just maybe not what I would have chosen, myself, in the selfish, unreachable place where Everything Happens Just as We Would Wish It.
There is still very much to say, and very much to do.
Which brings me around full circle, in what might as well be a tribute to my days as an active MILBLOGGER, and to my MILBLOGGER comrades. We had quite a time, didn’t we?
As Papa Ray says, “Continue the Mission.”
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