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Archive for February, 2007

Shilling for votes

I’m generally not about self promotion, but…

You might be aware that this year’s Milbloggies (awards for military blogs) are now open for nominations. You can nominate any of the military blogs listed at milblogging.com.

If you like what you read at the D-Ring, please go here and nominate it for a milbloggie. I know I would appreciate it; a nomination for a milbloggie would help raise the profile of the D-Ring and grow the community of folks who are interested in how the military address the challenges and possibilities presented by new media. All you need to do to nominate is register your e-mail address at the site.

Nominations run only run through 5 p.m. on February 21, so if you are going to nominate, do it soon!

(PS — While you are there, you might want to nominate this guy, this guy and this guy too.)

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Untitled

I couldn’t title this post. There are no words.

I have been subscribed to Badgers Forward for a while. The blog is written by the company commander of an engineering company currently deployed to Iraq.

For the past five days, I have been riveted as information is revealed through his blog and through the blog of one of his Soldiers about the death of three men from his unit.

Never in my life have I read such comprelling writing from two Soldiers.

From Badger:

If February 8, 2007 was the worst day of my life, this was certainly one of if not the most emotionally draining days I have ever had.

One of my Soldiers asked rhetorically, “How do you honor men that were always laughing and smiling? You smile and then you laugh. And that is what we started to do again today.

Tonight, here in Iraq, I am completely spent. The story of that day and the story of the memorial service both need to be told. But right now that will have to be another day.

From TD at Acute Politics (Badger’s Soldier) :

Under a sky streaked blood-red and angry with sunset, I carry my friends belongings from his room. In my head I can already see another sun setting over the memorial to come; the breeze twisting dogtags around a rifle like a devils windchime, and carrying once again the plaintive notes of the bagpipe playing Amazing Grace.

Blogs are real and raw and emotional. And they are powerful.

Maybe that is why the Department of Defense is afraid of them.

Personally, I think we need more officers like Badger and more Soldiers like TD. To you both, thank you. You do your nation proud. Our thoughts are with you as you face these trying days ahead.

RIP SGT Holtom, SGT Clevenger, PFC Werner.

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From Sunday’s paper:

It begins almost imperceptibly, one lonely posting on a blog. It says that U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan use candy to lure children so they can be used as human shields.

Patently untrue.

But in an age when the lines between traditional media and the blogosphere are blurred, a dark rumor can spread like a kindergarten virus, unchecked and unchallenged.

U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa is taking notice.

Since 2005, CentCom officials have jumped into the blogging fray, facing the realities of a new electronic age in hopes of combating misinformation on the Web, or just getting its own news out.

A three-person team monitors blogs – Internet journals with commentary from ordinary citizens and, often, links to news articles – that concentrate on CentCom’s area of responsibility, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan.

Team members contact blogs when inaccuracies or incomplete information is posted. They also ask bloggers if they can post a link to CentCom’s Web site, or they offer access to CentCom information and news releases.

Read the full article.

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USASOC goes mobile

Following in the footsteps of OSD Public Affairs, U.S. Army Special Operations Command has announced that its news is now packaged to be read on mobile devices.

From the release:

“The news service basically was developed as a means of getting news articles out locally and nationally,” said Walter Sokalski, USASOC Deputy Public Affairs Officer. “This information use to be faxed which involved intense man power. Instead of diluting content we decided to come up with an alternative with news directed toward soldiers, civilians, and people of SOC.”

UNS-Mobile is geared for hand-held devices such as phones and personal digital assistants – the new sources for news.

“This site is for people on the go,” said Mark Tate, the UNS webmaster. “The screens on those devices are not that large and the graphics that we have on the main page doesn’t look right on a Blackberry. It was a design-challenge as we had to create an interesting looking site without graphics.”

The mobile page offers the latest stories and press releases. It can be reached at http://new.soc.mil/USN-mobile/Index.htm or by clicking on the link button on the UNS web site (http://new.soc.mil/).

This is a good step toward making special operations news more accessable to the general public. More and more, people are getting their news on the go — Every day, I seem to see more and more people checking their Blackberrys and mobile phones for news when I ride the subway to work.

Thanks to RTO for the tip.

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RTO Trainer from Signaleer had a great comment to the news about the Pentagon (read: Army Web Risk Assessment Cell, or AWRAC) getting sued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for monitoring what milbloggers are saying online.

I had to post it in full:

As an individual with a blog who has been contacted by the program I can’t find anything offensive about it.

I wasn’t ordered to do anything. I simply received an e-mail that said, we noticed you posted X and that might not be such a good idea if you think about it.

I thought about it and adjusted fire.

As for monitoring… so what? We chose to put our ramblings out there in public in order for people to see it. I can divine no expectation of privacy here. And we, as Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen, have (lightly) proscribed 1st amendment rights in other media.

Finally, the DoD had a duty to protect its members and to assess risk to us. So… I can find no foul here.

I strongly suspect that the “monitoring” is no more than subscribing to RSS feeds and occassional visits to sites that don’t have them.

RTO gets it. Monitoring isn’t about supressing speech. It is about protecting the men and women on the frontlines. Milblogging is important, and I am a huge champion of the power and effectiveness of it. But it needs to be carefully balanced with a concern for the safety of servicemembers.

In other news, ARNews published another story abot AWRAC (complete with a really bad cartoon). Lets see if this one causes as much furvor as the last.

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I recently attended a retirement luncheon for my old boss. Another officer who also worked at the Pentagon while I was there asked me about “the blog stuff.”

I tried to explain that what is happening online is about more than “the blog stuff,” but, being put on the spot, I had a difficult time putting exactly what I was trying to say into words.

Luckily, I don’t need to.

Below is a great video for all you military folks interested in the revolutionary changes that evolutions in Web technology have brought about, referred to as Web 2.0.

And Kudos to Michael Wesch on an outstanding video.

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D-Ring Links

Defense Tech: Pentagon Sued Over Milblog-Monitoring

Army.mil: CBS Sponsors Baghdad Bowl

3pointD: WMD in Second Life?

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Super Bowl

While you are watching the Super Bowl today, remember that there are a few who are watching it at 2 a.m. from the sandbox. And that they can’t see the commercials (because Armed Forces TV doesn’t show them).

And that you are watching it because most of them aren’t.

Thanks to our troops.

And GO BEARS!

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The New York Times, the oft-cited (though often erroneously) example of “liberal media bias,” is under fire from prominent military bloggers for showing images of a wounded Soldier on their Web site before the family had been notified.

From the Houston Chronicle:

A photograph and videotape of a Texas soldier dying in Iraq published by the New York Times have triggered anger from his relatives and Army colleagues and revived a long-standing debate about which images of war are proper to show.

The journalists involved, Times reporter Damien Cave and Getty Images photographer Robert Nickelsberg, working for the Times, had their status as so-called embedded journalists suspended Tuesday by the Army corps in Baghdad, military officials said, because they violated a signed agreement not to publish photos or video of any wounded soldiers without official consent.

New York Times foreign editor Susan Chira said Tuesday night that the newspaper initially did not contact the family of Army Staff Sgt. Hector Leija about the images because of a specific request from the Army to avoid such a direct contact.

“The Times is extremely sensitive to the loss suffered by families when loved ones are killed in Iraq,” Chira said. “We have tried to write about the inevitable loss with extreme compassion.”

She said that after the newspaper account, with a photograph of the soldier, was published Monday, a Times reporter in Baghdad made indirect efforts to tell the family of the video release later that day. The video was still available for viewing on the Times’ Web site Tuesday night, when the newspaper notified clients of its photo service that the photograph at issue was no longer available and should be eliminated from any archives.

There is no doubt that posting that content was wrong.

However, it seems like the New York Times knows it made an error in deciding to remove the photo, so I don’t think there was a deliberate decision to leave the video up. With a massive organization like the New York Times, it is entirely possible that they didn’t realize it was there.
Still, this situation raises some questions:

1) Is this just an example of the price we pay of living in a digital society? Are “mistakes” like this inevitable?

2) If the New York Times is working to correct a mistake, should the blogosphere keep hounding them?

3) The military already has rules for journalists, but they still get broken. What can the military do better to ensure that the rights of Soldiers (and their families) are always respected?

Inquiring minds want to know. Sound off!

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46s can be heroes too

For those of you who think that 11 Bravos (that is infantrymen for those of you not familiar with Army military occupational designations) are the only ones with the glory, remember that 46s (public affairs specialists) can be heroes too.

From ARNews:

hey say you never know what you’ll do in a life-threatening situation until it occurs, but for one Wiesbaden Soldier “doing the right thing” came as naturally as drawing breath.

Spc. Anthony Scroggins, a broadcaster/producer with the American Forces Network-Hessen known to listeners by his radio moniker, “The Scrogg,” came to the aid of a stabbing victim by disarming the man’s attacker and neutralizing him until German police arrived.

Scroggins was recognized for his valor and lifesaving actions by Mainz Police President Franz Kirchberger in a ceremony at the Mainz Police Headquarters Feb. 1.

The AFN broadcaster said the incident occurred the evening of Jan. 6 while he was waiting for his girlfriend to undergo an X-ray at Mainz’s Johannes Gutenberg University Hospital. Hearing a commotion in the hallway, Scroggins said he went to investigate.

“I saw a guy bent over stabbing another guy in a chair,” he said, explaining that several hospital staff members who were not far away seemed to be arguing and were not interceding. “As soon as I rounded the corner I saw the knife coming out of the victim and I came up under the assailant’s arms and pulled them up into the air.”

While pinning the man and holding his arms tightly in the air, Scroggins said, the attacker managed to somehow pass the knife to an accomplice who must have left the hospital with the weapon.

“While I was holding him I was looking around and noticed the blood all over the floor,” he said, adding that he eventually handed the man over to a doctor’s custody, only to witness the attacker making a break for the hospital entrance a short time later. “The guy was getting away so I chased after him … about 20-30 yards. I grabbed him again and brought him back inside.”

Scroggins said he set the man down on a chair and kept a close eye on him, along with one of the doctors, until the German police arrived.

Throughout the incident, Scroggins said he “felt like he was on autopilot. I didn’t think. It’s that surreal. There was no conscious decision on my part.

“When I went back to my girlfriend, Bianca, she was sobbing hysterically,” Scroggins said, explaining that while he was involved with the police and the doctors his girlfriend, not knowing what had occurred, but aware of the violent commotion in the hallway, was told Scroggins had been “taken away by the doctors.”

“It wasn’t until I got back to Bianca that it finally hit me what happened,” he said. After reassuring Bianca that he was OK, both of them again talked to the police about what had transpired.

“The nurses told my girlfriend that the victim had been stabbed six times,” Scroggins said, adding that the doctors were convinced Scroggins had saved the man’s life.

“We’re very proud of him,” said Lon Blair, AFN-Hessen operations director. “He’s universally loved by everyone who works with him and is always willing to help everyone on the team.

“He’s very humble,” Blair added, saying that he was informed by the German police that the doctors were convinced “if Scroggins hadn’t intervened the man would have died.

“In my conversations with the German police they said his actions were exemplary and they wanted to recognize his behavior as an example of one citizen intervening to save another.

“Often there’s bad news – stories about Soldiers getting in trouble on the weekends – but I think overall Soldiers are people of strong judgment, and military people are brave,” Blair said.

Blair added that while the German police recognized the American Soldier on their own initiative, the AFN Hessen command was putting him in for an award, possibly the Soldier’s Medal, and he was also to be honored by the U.S. Army Garrison Hessen for his actions.

“My girlfriend always calls me her hero, and after that happened, she said, ‘Now you’re really my hero,'” said Scroggins, who was born in Modesto, Calif. “I think a hero is someone who goes out to save someone. I just did what anyone would do.”

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