Taking the "D'oh!" out of OPSEC
March 4, 2009
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - Homer Simpson does not seem like the perfect picture for military policy. But, for a subject as important as operational security, "OPSEC" in military slang, he is the ideal example-of what not to do. Simpson's tendency to let the cat out of the bag actually made him a poster boy for a recent OPSEC education product seen around Multi-National Division-Baghdad's headquarters.
"The principles of OPSEC haven't changed much," said Capt. Jeff Van Cleave, an information operations officer for MND-B. "Through all wars, the purpose is to deny vital intelligence to the enemy."
"Word of mouth is the easiest way to leak information and for others to take that information and make it into intelligence. OPSEC is an enduring principle of the combat situation."
Any form of communication that gives the enemy potential information on Soldiers' movements or providing any other information on Soldiers' lives in and out of a combat zone is in violation of operational security, said Master Sgt. Mario Dovalina, the OPSEC manager for MND-B.
Giving mission-related details and sensitive information to the enemy is the worst kind of error to make, said Dovolina, a Dallas native. Having situational awareness is as important as any other skill a Soldier learns.
"Don't be that guy. Don't be the one who gives information to the enemy. People can lose their lives, or people can get injured," said Dovolina. "No matter where you are; you could be at the PX and someone could be listening behind the other aisle, or at the mess hall, there's someone who could be at a nearby table listening."
It's not just careless talk that Soldiers need to watch. Another part of Dovolina's mission is to spread the word what gets trashed.
"Shred and burn any and all documents: secret, unclassified and personal; including sticky notes and mailing labels. If shredding is not possible, than make sure to burn documents." said Dovolina. "This protects the Army and its mission and it protects a person's identity from identity theft."
According to a 2007 USA Today article, data thieves and con artists have begun to increasingly target military personnel. In May 2006, thieves stole computers containing sensitive data for nearly 30 million active and retired service members from four Veterans Affairs offices.
"It's very easy to get a person's last name and "Google" it on the internet. People pick up information and download pictures from blogs, Myspace and Facebook to get access to personal information that can lead to identity theft."
Violating OPSEC has serious consequences. Recently, Soldiers have been fined and received a reduction of rank for blogging sensitive details and information, said Dovolina.
OPSEC standards accentuate teamwork and are a big part of mission success. Sgt. Eric Weaver, an MND-B intelligence analyst from Youngstown, Ohio, sees it as an adjustment to the military lifestyle.
I've always been a free speaker, now; I have to be more self-conscious. Work is something I don't talk about."
"We are all Army brothers and sisters, so why would you want to bring harm to your brother or sister," emphasized Dovalina. "Everybody needs to do their part and keep each other safe."
Homer Simpson, the Army's poster boy for what not to do, got his reputation for having 'loose lips.' He brings back memories of the World War II military term, 'Loose lips sink ships.' It is a reminder of how talking out of turn can compromise missions, destroy equipment, or even cause loss of life.
"OPSEC means not slipping with a word or a phrase," said Weaver. "The costs involved are too serious. Too much is at stake, especially in theater."