20 January 2009

A high-level unit blog - another GO joins the ranks of pro-bloggers!

Add MG Oates to the growing list that includes LTG Caldwell, LTG Vanantwerp, and BG Abrams: GOs in the Blogosphere! Through a milbogging.com link, I was made aware of the Task Force Mountain blog started and maintained by the 10th Mtn Div CG, MG Oates. If you haven't seen it yet, go take a look. It's a pretty good example of what we can do to more effectively make use of new media. The home page doesn't look too dissimilar to a typical Army unit page - news clips, useful links, etc. What makes it unique, though, is a link to the Mountain Sound Off Blog.

Just a quick glance through the posts (really, questions asked by MG Oates) shows that a good number of folks are responding to this new form of communication. Some of the discussions already have over 100 comments posted! Responding to concerns that such a forum can negate the chain of command in an interview with Danger Room, MG Oates said "It is not in fact going around the chain of command; it allows us to connect to the chain of command in ways we have not been able to experience before."

Similar concerns were raised by faculty at USMA when the Dean and Commandant both began an internal forum for cadets to post concerns and questions. For the most part, posts remained professional and respectful, and both the Dean and Comm showed they valued the cadets participation in the dialogue by personally responding and posting follow-ups to actions that were taken if something needed to be fixed. In time, these forums were accepted and frequented by faculty - and it's arguable that it improved internal dialogue among all. The main difference between these USMA forums and the Task Force Mountain one is firewalls: the USMA forums were accessible only within the USMA network, the TF Mountain one is accessible by anyone!

Another interesting piece of MG Oates' foray into Web 2.0 stuff is the Lima Charlie Chat Room - a scheduled time when MG Oates chats online with Soldiers and they can ask whatever they want. You can read a transcript of the first chat on 4 Jan and judge for yourself if Soldiers are asking honest questions and the CG providing honest answers. I think most will be pleasantly surprised. But, you can also judge if there are potential "security violations" in there ... this is still the most challenging piece of all this new media for the Army.

One thing that I think would make this TF Mountain web page even better would be to provide links to blogs from its Soldiers. This could lead to much more traffic for the Soldiers blogs, therefore more of the "daily life" stories could make it out into circulation, and the blogs could have more positive effect. Some think that by doing so, however, would lead the Soldiers to edit themselves and not post as honestly. A fair concern, I think, but in this case, perhaps worth the risk to increase the audience!

So, what do you think? Is this TF Mountian blog a good idea? An open blog for dialogue about internal and external issues? What about the chat room (and posting the transcripts of "internal communications")? In the military, does this sort of thing usurp the chain of command? Or, as MG Oates contends, is it just one more way to communicate with your subordinates? Curious to hear what you think.

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