Providers hone in on social media awareness
Social media is rapidly evolving with access to information at any given time allowing people to rapidly digest and share information. The Army views personal websites and social media positively and it respects the right of Soldiers to use them as a medium of self-expression. However, it is important that all Soldiers know that when they are logged on to a social media platform, they still represent the Army and must abide by the Uniform Code of Military Justice at all times, even when off duty.
In order to ensure service members with the 3rd Division Sustainment Brigade are conducting themselves within Army policy, leadership within the Provider brigade asked the public affairs office to help train their Soldiers.
“Based on a number of social media-related incidents in the past year throughout the Army, including one in our brigade, we came to the realization that we were not effectively addressing the very different relationship our junior Soldiers, NCOs and officers have with social media,” said Lt. Col. James Willette, deputy commander of the 3rd DSB. “These young Soldiers also have a very different baseline idea of what is acceptable as opposed to what Army policy allows. In order to better bridge that gap, our public affairs officer put together some training that meets the Soldiers where they’re coming from in relation to social media.”
Soldiers on active duty must abide by certain restrictions to ensure good order and discipline. All Soldiers are on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and their actions are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“We get reports of Soldier misconduct online through a variety of mediums just like any other issue that Soldiers may perform that may have a negative impact on the public’s view of the professional Soldier,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado, the 3rd DSB public affairs operations noncommissioned officer. “In order to ensure that our Provider Soldiers and Families are aware of Army policy for the use of online platforms, we developed training to provide to each company and the family readiness groups.”
In addition to online conduct, the spread and influence of misinformation and disinformation are a regular concern for anyone using online platforms.
“We see misinformation and disinformation online regularly whether it is to influence public opinion about a topic that affects people at a local or even national level,” Salgado said. “One of the portions of our class uses an example of pineapple on pizza as a means to polarize the class and then highlight by stage how a malicious actor goes about a misinformation or disinformation campaign to teach our formation what to look out for.”
As with any operation in the Army, maintaining operational security online is important with Soldiers when posting and sharing information on social media platforms. Soldiers are also not allowed to post any nonpublic information (as defined in 5 CFR 2635.703) this includes, but is not limited to, classified or sensitive information, unless such release is a protected disclosure per an appropriate whistleblower statute.
“A few examples we include in the class are from the tactical information operations planner course to show the formation how OPSEC violations through social media or traditional media can have an impact on military operations,” Salgado said. “A personal example I use is a senior U.S. military member accidentally revealing the presence of a classified U.S. radar site in Turkey which caused an international incident the U.S. government had to respond to.”
In addition to social media training, the public affairs team also teaches media awareness. The 3rd DSB currently has Soldiers deployed to four different combatant commands supporting operations across the world giving them a high opportunity to interact with the media. It’s important to make sure the Soldiers and their families are trained and prepared to speak properly to discuss specified themes and messages and are speaking in accordance with the Division public affairs and higher headquarters guidance.
“Traditional media awareness is just as important as social media awareness. There are a lot of similarities, but also some specific differences,”Salgado said. In the end we want to make sure that regardless of the platform, our Soldiers and their families are making smart decisions to keep themselves and our units safe while also informing their friends, the nation and potentially international communities and partner nations about the great things we do in the Provider brigade.”