A recent article on Military.com about the Army asking Soldiers "to be cautious on facebook" brings to light, once again, the need for OPSEC (Operational Security) and how critical it is to the safety and security of our military members and their families. While this seems like a topic that has been shared and written about to the point that it would be common knowledge, sadly that’s not necessarily the case. There are always those who are new to the military, or may be civilian friends and family of a military member, that do not know about OPSEC and how seemingly innocent information can be used against our military. But there are also those who should know better, yet still unintentionally post potentially harmful information.
This was never truer than during my husband’s recent deployment. I saw multiple instances on Facebook where wives posted information about when their spouses moved locations, deployment countdowns, and homecoming dates. There were even Soldiers themselves who posted their location, when they were going on a mission and when they were coming home. While it’s wonderful to be excited about a family member’s return from war, didn’t they realize that posting this happy information could actually keep them from coming home?
I know that most of my civilian friends have likely never heard of OPSEC. To be honest, I hadn't either until a few months before the deployment, and by that point I had been a military wife for three years. Since we did not live near my husband’s unit, I was not able to attend meetings on drill weekends to receive this kind of information if it was discussed. Plus, our FRG, which should have been the spouses’ information source, was virtually non-existent. It made sense not to share that kind of information, so I had pretty much abided by it anyway.
OPSEC is an important topic, to be shared with military and civilians alike. The “bad guys” can gain important information about troop movements, locations, mission details, etc. easily through simple Facebook posts and pictures, blog updates, and other forms of social media. We never know who is listening.
And just as important as Operational Security is to the safety of our troops, it is just as important for our own personal safety. Posting too much information about ourselves online can lead to people knowing when we are home alone, when we are traveling, and even the names and locations of our extended family. The last thing I wanted while my husband was deployed was to let someone up to no good know that I was home alone, or that my house would be empty while on vacation. One recent story that I saw posted on a Facebook forum was from a young wife whose husband had just deployed. She knew she wouldn’t be hearing from him for a few weeks, but just days after he left the states, someone claiming to be her husband contacted her grandfather saying he was in jail overseas and needed to have some money wired. The person who claimed to be her husband knew the names of her children and her parents, and had the contact information of several family members. It was not her husband calling, but part of a scam targeting military members. While her information could have been gained from a variety of sources, it could also have been gained just as easily from Facebook or other social media sources.
This is not to say that Facebook and all social media is dangerous. It has its place and if carefully used, it can be the main link to a Soldier’s family back home. It was a life-saver for us during the deployment. My husband had a terrible Skype connection and no phone contact, but we were able to chat daily on Facebook. It was the best feeling to see the green dot light up next to his name and know that I could “talk” to him. If your information is protected and OPSEC is followed, these online sources can really help bridge the miles and help keep a relationship strong through the long separation.
There are some great tips about how to protect yourself and follow OPSEC guidelines suggested by the Army which are provided in the aforementioned article. To read the entire article, click here. It’s always good to have a reminder about OPSEC and personal security. And as the article states from the Army Social Media and OPSEC guide...
If you aren't comfortable putting the same information on a sign in your yard, don't put it online.