13 November 2008

Misleading CNN headline about Soldier blog ...

Headline this morning on CNN.com: "I'm going to die," Soldier blogs

So, that makes it sound like this was a new comment on a current blog ... but I'll reserve my critique of editors' choices for another day! None-the-less, Colby Buzzell - and, therefore, Soldier blogs - got some more press today. A couple of comments in the article are worth copying here - they apply perfectly to what this blog is all about (the emphasis is mine).

Pentagon security policy forbids soldiers to publish sensitive information, such as unit locations or the timing of military operations, that might put troops in harm's way. But beyond that, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are encouraged to blog about military life, said Army Public Affairs Spc. Lindy Kyzer.
"We're actually entering an era of transparency, where we need to have our soldiers talk. It does open up risks. Once you post something, you can't get it back. But we trust our soldiers with a lot," she said. "They are our best spokespersons. They know what the life of a soldier is like, and it's important to convey that to the American people."
Blogging also helps soldiers process traumatic combat experiences that can be hard for them to talk about, Kyzer said.
I disagree that the Army currently "encourages" Soldiers to blog - "allows" or "tolerates" more accurately captures how I understand the policies and practices. But SPC Kyzer (interesting that PA has a SPC as a spokesperson - nothing against our great junior Soldiers, but I was under the impression that it would typically be someone of higher rank ***CORRECTION: Lindy Kyzer is a "Public Affairs Specialist", not an Army SPC - Thanks AFSister ***) does make two great points: "we need to have our soldiers talk [because] they are our best spokespersons." And add another reason - therapeutic benefit - to the list of reasons why the Army really should encourage blogging.

So, let's go back to the idea of encouraging Soldiers to blog. What are some legitimate ways to encourage that? I'll post some ideas later ... in the meantime, feel free to leave your ideas about it.


  1. "Encourage" is an interesting word. I blogged because I wanted to. I had an interest in writing and an interest in sharing my thoughts with people back home in a "pull" vs push (email) system. No USAF policy or program could've created that interest. And besides, as you and I have discussed off-line, the simple act of blogging can be a significant risk, personally and professionally, regardless of OPSEC rules. Is it proper to do anything else besides "not discourage." Is it like encouraging soldiers to ride motorcycles to work? It might have an end that the Services like (using less gas), but do you really want people otherwise disinclined to jump into those risks?

  2. Good point about considering all sides of something we encourage. In order to maximize the possible good while minimizing the negatives, I'm working on what the appropriate method to enable Soldiers to effectively blog would look like. It would certainly involve significant discussion about all sides of OPSEC - the Army's already got some good training packages for this aspect available for download through AKO. It would also involve some discussion about effective writing - helping those of us who need it to be better story tellers. It would also include some indirect PA involvement - providing "talking points" for Soldiers consideration (not mandated use) and ensuring they understand the big picture so they can appropriately write about how what they're doing fits into that picture.
    Thanks for the comments ... this is an important discussion and the more people involved in it at this point, the better the ideas will be in the long run.

  3. Lindy's official title is Public Affairs Specialist; not SPC Lindy Kyzer. I think Spc. was used in the article as an abbreviation, not rank. I believe she's a civilian contractor, but I could be wrong. I met her at the Milblog Conference in Vegas. One of her projects is leading Roundtable discussions between bloggers and military leaders. She really is trying to promote blogs as a way to get the word out, and officially, the Army is "encouraging" blogs, but unofficially, officers in the field are still squashing them.

    One of the better ideas of the conference came from Chuck Z, who suggested to Pete Geren that the Army doesn't send soldiers into the battlefield without training them on the weapons they use, so shouldn't the Army also train Soldiers on how to blog? I thought that was a GREAT idea on how to encourage blogging, reinforce grammer and computer skills, and to lead Opsec violation discussions.

  4. Very interesting, AFSister. Thanks for the correction about Lindy Kyzer. Could you elaborate on what you mean by "officially, the Army is 'encouraging' blogs"? From my reading of current policies, nowhere do I find anything that suggests it is encouraged - just allowed. Outside of Ft Leavenworth (where all CGSC students are required to blog at least once), I can't find any other policy that does more than simply allow blogging. Can you point me in the right direction?

    I agree completely with Chuck Z's recommendation to train Soldiers how to blog. That is a piece of my project here - developing recommendations on how to do that effectively. A few components of proper training (education may actually be the more appropriate word here) would be composition - how to tell a story that people will want to read - and OPSEC in the blogosphere. I intend to further develop some ideas on this subject and post them sometime in the future.

    Thanks again for your correction ... and for your comments!

  5. Maj. Bruhl - thanks for the e-mail, and for pointing me towards your blog. I want to join the conversation! Check out some of the recent comments by the Secretary of the Army at many major events, including the 2008 MilBlog Conference (I'll e-mail you the transcript of his remarks), and you'll see that our leaders do actually encourage Soldiers to blog! Unfortunately, policy brings into play a lot of outside issues that can make it move along more slowly than we'd like - but it's crucial to know that there isn't a policy prohibiting blogging, so we need to take the SA and Army PAO comments at their face value, as a hearty endorsemement of Soldiers who blog. OPSEC regulation is there to protect Soldiers - and we want them to take care and concern in what they write. I'm so glad this dialogue is happening, and look forward to keeping in touch - and thanks for the correction, AFSisiter! I'm an Army Civilian (hooah), working at the Pentagon. (follow me at www.twitter.com/lindykyzer)

  6. Thanks for checking out this blog, Lindy. I look forward to getting your input on this subject and the ideas that are generated through the discussion here. I agree that we should certainly take the comments of our leaders at face value - the next step is getting those into official policy and then getting that policy (in understandable language) into the hands of our Soldiers so they can put it into action.

  7. My name is Josh Patterson, I'm a graduate student at the University of Kansas conducting research on milbloggers. I wanted to know if you would be willing to be interviewed.

    My email is josh.m.patterson [at] gmail [dot] com