31 January 2010

Links of the Day

Three excellent links for the day, courtesy of the milblogosphere:

1.) The new official blog of the USNS Comfort, the American hospital ship currently operating off the coast of Haiti. Really, there's not much to say about it other than the fact that you need to visit. There's only a few posts so far, but I expect the blog to get busy in the next few days.

2.) Michael Cummings of On Violence guest-blogged at Milblogging.com, with 12 tips for milbloggers. There's three particular rules I'd like to highlight:

8. Avoid Army Bureaucratic Language. The Army hates language. It chews it up and spits it out into some unrecognizable thing filled with too many adjectives (full spectrum operations) and acronyms (METT-TC). So do what you can to solve the problem. Avoid the stuffy language demanded during your day job when you go home at night to blog. If you have to use an acronym, remember to explain it to your readership.

This is probably one of the best pieces of advice for milbloggers. Good writers have difficulty adapting to mil-speak because it's, well, just plain bad. I recommend dropping most of the mil-speak and buying an AP Stylebook. Spell out the majority of your acronyms and write as if you're writing for the general public because, let's face it, it's the general public that we're trying to influence with blogs.

Milspeak is confusing, awkward, and in some cases, the vagueness of the language makes people suspicious. I could go on, but just check out "On Superfluous Adjectives", "Out of the Woodwork" and "Shout-Outs for Military Cliches" (The Best Defense) for more on this issue.

10. Learn Opsec. Avoid Opsec. This is kind of obvious, but it needs to be said.
- A great rule of thumb: if it involves numbers avoid it. So the number of men on a patrol, the time an attack occurred, or how long units take to respond should never go on a blog.
- Always avoid current or future operations. If it just happened, don't blog on it. If it might happen, definitely don't blog on it.
- It is not OPSEC but be cautious about breaking the news of wounded or killed soldiers. For courtesy to the family, please wait until the Department of Defense releases the information.

To this, I also want to add that, for the sake of the family, please don't give details of a service member's death. I've often wanted to talk about the impact that suicide might have on a unit, but I think it's best to wait a few years before I delve into that issue, for the sake of all involved. This ties into my third favorite rule:

12. Wait until you leave a unit to discuss that unit. The Kaboom blog is the best example of a blog shutting down because of outside pressure. Due to a variety of circumstances, Matt Gallacher's blog was ordered to close. I too worry about getting pressure to close down my blog. My solution is to wait until after I leave a unit before I write about it. This helped me on numerous occasions:
- Many times during deployment I felt frustrated, angry or just pissed. Posting in in these mindsets could have had a negative impact on my career and myblogging.
- I took over a job on a battalion staff a few months after we returned from Afghanistan. When things didn't go my way, I wrote blog posts about my frustration. When I read those posts now, I can choose the posts that actually offer my readers valuable information and throw out posts that are just rants.

Agreed. Critiquing professional military education (after you've left the course), counterinsurgency theory or military culture in general (e.g., PowerPoint) is one thing. In fact, I've even found flag officers weigh in on these sorts of articles--specifically, Admiral JC Harvey in the aforementioned PowerPoint article.

However, complain about your chain of command or your unit on a posting board or in a blog and you're risking UCMJ action. More than one Soldier is wearing a little less rank because a quick Google search for the name of a unit revealed derogatory comments. In many ways, this really is no different than the rules which govern blogging in the workplace--know when to separate work and play.

3.) You need to check out Captain Josh McLaughlin's (whom you know from the al-Sahwa blog) first article at Small Wars Journal. This article examines the various al-Qaeda (AQ) "spinoffs" such as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP in Yemen), and their nature as either a franchise of the main al-Qaeda in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region or as a worldwide conglomerate. It's an excellent topic for those interested in the global struggle against al-Qaeda and affiliate groups.


Madhu said...

Yes to the minimizing acronyms when writing for the general public....I made a comment like that on a different "milblog" and immediately felt embarrassed for making the suggestion.

So, I'm glad you - and others - make the same argument!

Starbuck said...

I like to shy away from mil-speak as much as possible. However, there are quite a few people who either a.) are so ingrained in military culture that they think in mil-speak or b.) think that mil-speak gives them an air of authenticity.