A major part of becoming informed about the military lifestyle involves the subject of Operational Security, also known as OPSEC. The goal of OPSEC is to ensure that our service members across each branch are safe. That means creating “rules” on what can and can’t be discussed in group setting or in an online forum.
Over the past decade, due to the huge rise in social media usage, OPSEC has adjusted their focus to social media. Even through blogging, we have all seen many instances of over sharing, especially when a loved one is deployed. It’s hard to filter the different events in our lives, but it’s important to understand the main issues before making a mistake. Here are some common misconceptions about OPSEC:
It’s okay to post when my husband is coming home, where I’ll be picking him up, etc. on my major social media sites.
Reality: By announcing this so openly, you’re opening the door for strangers and letting the world know that you’ll be alone until your loved one returns. You’re also letting everyone know that in X amount of time, troops will be on the move. This can result in those who are not friendly towards the military to know unnecessary information.
Only my friends are reading my posts.
Always keep in mind that your friends are not the only people who can see these posts. Even if you have “private” settings, many platforms don’t fully protect your information. Social media is far more open than people allow themselves to believe, and even though it’s easy to be excited about these milestones, we have to remember that their safety is most important. Stick to telling only family and some friends this information, preferably in person.
If I break the guidelines of OPSEC through one of my social media posts or pictures, I’ll just delete it.
Reality: Mostly when pertaining to blogs and Facebook, once the information is out there, you can’t get rid of it. This is not only because you can’t trace who has already seen it, but because posts commonly get shared, and can continue to be shared even after the original is destroyed. Think carefully before posting something. If you’re hesitant, chances are it’s with good reason.
I have a right to share whatever I want, including the location of my service member.
Reality: You can have that attitude if you want, but it only puts you and your service member at risk. Unfortunately, many individuals have this attitude. I know it can be frustrating to have so much be decided and controlled by the military, but sharing that kind of information won’t change that in any way. It will only make the matter more frustrating.
I’m not in the military, so the rules shouldn’t apply to me.
Reality: No, you may not be in the military, but you are considered part of the military community. And with that, you’ve agreed to some unwritten rules already. When a huge force is returning from deployment, buses, planes, and convoys are in frequent travel. This makes them extremely prone to attack, and giving away any locations or travel details will only increase that danger. The rules apply to everyone, even if consequences don’t always occur.
I know first hand how difficult it can be to have to monitor and filter what goes on your personal sites. But it’s just a small price to pay to contribute to protecting our service members. Here are some things to consider if you feel stuck:
Rather than posting a countdown:
Make a post when they’re already home, or if you just can’t wait, be vague about it. Say they’ll “be home soon” rather than “be home in 2 weeks, 2 days, and 17 hours”. I admit, we’re all guilty sometimes.
Rather than posting something that could violate OPSEC:
Think on it. Maybe you’re having some type of meltdown because your loved one has been gone for 6 months, or maybe you’re angry about recent events. Regardless, just give it some thought before posting. Chances are you’ll change your mind.
Rather than assuming you have rights to sharing private info:
Think about what your loved one has the right to. They’ve already made sacrifices, and will continue to do so until their service is done. The least you can do is protect them along the way.
Rather than seeing yourself as just “non-military”:
Consider the fact that you are a part of a community; a family of individuals who have vowed to serve and protect in any way they can. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like we all “fit in”. I’m sure I’m not the first to say that there are days when I get frustrated, and I feel like I don’t offer enough of myself to the military community. But even on those days, I’m no less a part of them.
What are some recommendations you have for maintaining OPSEC?