Army encourages West Point generals to socialize online

Discussion in 'Academy/Military News' started by Momof2cadets, Aug 8, 2009.

  1. Momof2cadets

    Momof2cadets 5-Year Member Founding Member

    Dec 19, 2007
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    Article in the West Point local paper about social networking -- interesting to read Adm Mullins comments at the end...

    Army encourages West Point generals to socialize online

    By Alexa James
    Times Herald-Record
    Posted: August 08, 2009 - 2:00 AM
    WEST POINT — Brig. Gen. Michael Linnington, commandant of West Point's corps of cadets, is crouched at his computer, updating his Facebook status.

    "I'd rather be out in the field," he quips, "not sitting at the computer."

    But even this battle-tested commander admits that soldiers today are online more than on patrol. If he's going to lead them, he needs to be able to reach them.

    At a leadership conference in Boston two months ago, Linnington and two dozen other Army generals were "encouraged" to socialize online. Linnington gave it a shot, using Facebook to post videos of cadet combat training, photos from a Lt. Dan Band concert and links to West Point news clips. He was blown away by the responses from parents, cadets and folks new to the institution. "Heck, I have over 1,300 fans already," he said Wednesday.

    Linnington is not alone. The Army has hundreds of registered Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sites and countless unregistered accounts. The Army's Facebook network is one of the site's largest demographics, including teenage grunts and four-star generals.

    Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, has nearly 5,400 fans on Facebook. His page features daily notes from the front and touts his love for the Yankees and "Sleepless in Seattle."

    Army public affairs officials say this type of communication is priceless. Every Facebook contact becomes a person the service can connect with directly, through a medium that feels both personal and global.

    "The collaborative Web is the new reality," said Lindy Kyzer, with the Army's burgeoning online and social media division. "You can't stop the Internet."

    Some in the military disagree. The Marine Corps issued a memo this week immediately banning all social networking sites, calling them "a proven haven for malicious actors and content."

    The Department of Defense last week announced a full-throttle investigation into the pros and cons of Internet Web 2.0 capabilities — the technology that allows for data sharing and online communities. The secretary of defense wants a report on "threats and benefits" by the end of the month and a policy to govern Web 2.0 activities by Sept. 30.

    This perceived shortening of the cyber leash has set off debate among troops and their families.

    "I don't think the answer is shutting it off," said Lt. Col. Brian Tribus, director of communications at West Point. "Do we shut off the telephone? Do we shut off e-mail?"

    Defense Department officials say there's no cause for alarm. "We absolutely understand that this is the method of communication for people," said Jack Holt, senior strategist for emerging media. "It's not a question of soldiers not being able to do it. It's a question of where they get to do it."

    In the weeks ahead, the defense Department will be trying to understand how social networks are used and what kind of danger they pose. "We need to have a good grasp on this," he said. "Just because somebody is afraid that Sgt. Joe is going to post something (risky) on his Facebook page doesn't mean that we cut off access to all our military computers."

    Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, weighed in this week on his Twitter account, which has 5,100 followers: "Obviously we need to find the right balance between security and transparency. We are working on that. But am I still going to tweet? You bet."

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