The Deployment ABCs is a 26-week series where I cover every deployment-related topic, from care packages to homecomings to OPSEC. Tips, tricks and maybe a resource or two to help military spouses navigate their way through the craziness that is a deployment. If there’s a topic you’d like for me to cover or are interested in adding your own thoughts to, send me an email and we’ll chat!
Let me tell you about that time I violated OPSEC. I was 23 years old and had no freaking clue about being a military girlfriend. So as A prepared to come home from an extending training course, I blabbed about it to everyone I knew and not in private either. Only when I got a few less than happy texts from A did I fully comprehend that I’d made a mistake.
Now, while everything turned out ok and it wasn’t the worst thing that I could have done, I tell you that story in the hopes that I can help you avoid making a similar (or worse) mistake.
OPSEC stands for “Operations Security” and it essentially works to keep bad guys from adding up small pieces of information into a big picture of what the military is up to. In other words, Mary posting about her boyfriend’s return date on Facebook may not be enough information for bad guys to plan something. But if they gather similar information from enough sources, bad things could happen.
Social media has made OPSEC far harder to maintain. We live in a “share everything all the time” world and while many of us may have “private” social media accounts, nothing on the Internet is ever really private. Even things that seem harmless could be too much information, especially when they’re on social media because you’re always giving out more information than you realize.
A typical social media post has your name (sometimes first and last), a photo of you (and maybe your spouse), a link to your profile where even more information lives and possibly even your location and spouse’s name/profile link!
5 Social Media Posts that Violate OPSEC
Please keep John in your thoughts…his troop is on a mission.
Not only have you potentially put John in danger, but now people know what his entire troop is doing. Share this kind of stuff with close friends in person, but keep it off social media.
I can’t believe Jason leaves for Afghanistan tomorrow. The next 6 months can’t go by fast enough.
Name, departure date, destination and a possible return date. So not good. There’s nothing wrong with sharing this verbally with family and friends, but it shouldn’t be something shared on social media, by you or anyone else. As a side note, I’m a big fan of countdown apps, but when I share images on social media, I always crop out the estimated dates.
Praying… (link to a news story about a specific region)
This seems like it wouldn’t be that big of a deal and it may not turn out to be, but if you’re a military spouse, odds are something on your profile gives that away. That’s where the issue comes up. If I can see that you’re a military spouse, your husband is deployed and that you’re worried about what’s happening in Kabul, how do you know someone else can’t?
He’s coming home on the 25th! I can’t wait!
Oh gosh. This happens all the time in military spouse groups on Facebook. I know that theoretically it’s a safe place and we all have a common bond that would keep us from exploiting this information. But people can create fake social media profiles almost as easily Michael Phelps wins gold medals. You just never know who’s in that group.
Checking in at a FOB (Forward Operating Base)
Yes, even military personnel can violate their own OPSEC rules. Think about the last time you saw a service member post a picture of them while deployed on Facebook. My guess is there’s something in that photo that they shouldn’t share.
I know military families would never intentionally put their loved ones in harm’s way, so when I see OPSEC violations, I always try and explain why it’s an issue. By being careful about what you share and with whom, we can all do our part to keep military personnel safe.