Arming yourself for the social media cyber war

Bob Oldham, 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Bob Oldham, 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Coming to a workstation computer screen near you in the very near future is the ability for Airmen to engage in social networking, but with that new capability, Airmen also accept an awesome amount of responsibility.

While there has been a lot of discussion about network security and preserving that "weapon system," what we can't get lost on is that Airmen and their family members still need clear guidance to succeed in the latest battle space.

Make no mistake. The information war is ongoing and is often engaged before and after actual hostilities have ended. While there might not be actual casualties in the battle for information supremacy, there can be real consequences for those who engage without being fully armed. No one deploys to Iraq or Afghanistan without proper training, so why engage social media without first checking out some do's and don'ts? For your protection and guidance here are 10 rules to help prepare you before traveling the mine field that can be social media.

Rule No. 1. Information is classified for a reason. You don't want to be the one caught putting military secrets online. In the Air Force, we practice security at the source. That means if you say it or post it, you're responsible for it.

Rule No. 2. Stay in your lane; write about what you know. If you're a C-130 crew chief, tell people how heavy those C-130 main tires are to handle. Believe it or not, every job has its cool factor. Crew chiefs: way cool.

Rule No. 3. Operational security, or OPSEC. This is another way to earn an express-lane trip to the commander's office. I doubt that you want to break news on your blog that a specific unit is deploying on a specific day to a specific base for a specific number of days with a specific number of unit members. That's a lot of handy information for the enemy. That said, family members should also be careful about what they post when their loved one is deployed. If you post it, consider that the enemy just read it.

Rule No. 4. Photos. Nothing is more distracting than a photo with someone not wearing the uniform properly. You're in the Air Force; you're not a cowboy in the wild, wild west. If the dress and appearance instruction doesn't allow it, don't photograph yourself in it. A quick way to overpower your message is with a poor, distracting photo. A great photo, however, can draw people in.

Rule No. 5. Videos. Most have probably seen a funny video of an Airman on a flightline dancing or doing something silly. Have you ever looked in the background to see what was going on? Videos can be very telling to the enemy. Oh, and if you want to shoot video on the base's flightline or take pictures on the flightline, you need to coordinate with public affairs first.

Rule No. 6. Correct misinformation. If you know something online is inaccurate, then politely correct the record.

Rule No. 7. Use common sense. If you wouldn't say it in front of your mother, then you probably shouldn't post it. Also, be careful how much personal information you post online. Posting your address, phone number or other personally identifiable information online only helps those with bad intentions to cause you harm.

Rule No. 8. Don't lie. If you don't personally know it to be true, don't say it or type it.

Rule No. 9. When in doubt, defer to public affairs for expert guidance.

Rule No. 10. See rule No. 1.

The enemy is already engaged in the battle space, and every Airman should engage there, too. After all, we're all communicators.