Commentary: Keep your Family safe during deployment
March 12, 2010
FORT CARSON, Colo. - Recently, the following appeared on Pikes Peak Parent blog site:
"From (name taken out)'s blog post, '4 days left:'
"4 more days til he is gone..girls are handling it well, better then I thought. I haven't decided if I should bring them to say goodbye..I think it'll be hard on all involved..we are keeping them out of school Thursday and having a whole day, but maybe Friday they should go to school instead of watching him get on bus and leave.'"
Seems innocent enough, right'
But it's not, when it comes to operations security.
Now in fairness, perhaps nobody took the time to talk to this wife about everything she should or shouldn't do when it comes to talking about her Soldier's deployment.
Good news first. The spouse has taken corrective action and is now aware of what might have been wrong.
She has been an Army spouse for some time and thought that operations security meant that she didn't give an actual time and date of deployment. She didn't consider that personal security and protection from identity theft are part of the whole program nor considered the consequences. She, like many others, is stressed from the upcoming deployment and was looking to support from a group of on-line friends.
But she and others need to consider this.
I now know that this spouse (even have her name) will be without a husband for probably at least the next year, probably longer.
I now know how to find the spouse's address because one Web site directed me to another, and for $1.95 I can gather such information and even a little more - her age is even listed without having to pay the fee.
I now know that this Soldier and his wife also have at least two children, who are girls.
I now know that this Soldier (and probably his unit) left March 5 during the school day.
I now know this spouse has misgivings about the deployment. She is probably staying at home alone. She probably wasn't home sometime during the day on March 5.
I did this all in five minutes and with nothing else besides the blog, which happened to show up as a link on the Colorado Springs FreshInk site for Fort Carson, and using internet tools available to anyone out there.
The spouse was under the illusion that the blog site she was on was "members only," which it supposedly is, but the person manning FreshInk linked to the blog without permission of the blog caretaker. One has to consider public sites as not secure. Even Facebook, which is supposed to be secure, has been hacked. This could have happened on any public Web site.
I dug a little bit further into the Pikes Peak Parent blog and found a photograph of the spouse with her twin six-year-old daughters she had posted. Reading more of her blogs, I discovered that they live off Woodmen Boulevard. She also works outside the house as an optometric assistant.
And I am not a "bad guy."
I am not a sexual predator. I am not a scam artist. I am not a pedophile. I am not a terrorist.
But this spouse has inadvertently set up her Family and her husband for the bad guys.
If I were a bad guy, I might wait a month.
I might show up with fake credentials, offering unsolicited to check the furnace or the water pipes or a fee cleaning service, maybe something special for "our men in uniform."
I might find the opportunity to strike up a friendship at the grocery store or playground.
I might be a man, I might be a woman.
I might monitor the Family's daily routine: what time the girls go to school, what school they go to, if they have after- school activities.
I might check out their car, which probably even has a yellow ribbon magnet on it or some other identifying item that would indicate that the driver is an Army spouse of a deployed Soldier. And I would wait until the time is right.
I could be working with someone else, like the two women who several years ago went around informing military spouses that their husbands were injured. They said that for a several hundred dollar fee, they could reserve a space on a flight for the spouses to visit the Soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, telling them the spouse would be reimbursed for the fee once she got there.
Fortunately in that scam, the spouses were either more experienced or doubtful of the scam artists and contacted the authorities.
But it doesn't even have to stop with just the wife and children. It could affect the husband. Who's to say that a terrorist group wouldn't make contact' Who's to say that the terrorist group wouldn't try to blackmail the Soldier into betraying his country with the threat of hurting his wife and children'
Hopefully, our Soldiers would take this to the proper authorities, but even if they did, why add this stress to their already stressful mission.
According to Terrence Wimberly, Fort Carson Installation Operations Security Program Manager, here are internet/ blog OPSEC tips that can be used to help protect you and your Family during a deployment:
Aca,!AcDo not post information about upcoming deployments or temporary duty assignments.
Aca,!AcDon't give details about what kind of work your Department of Defense Family member performs for the military or government (this is also valid for DoD civilians who might deploy)
Aca,!AcIf your Family member is deployed in support of a military operation, don't give details about the location or the activities your Family member is involved in. Predators could be viewing your blogs and web pages.
Aca,!AcRealize that even if you install security protocols or password protection on your blog
or personal web page - they're not foolproof.
Aca,!AcRefrain from posting specific identifying information such as your phone number and
Aca,!AcDon't provide information that would allow someone to find you or your Family. Writing about the school your child attends, along with pictures of your children, are potential clues to help predators locate you or your Family.
Aca,!AcDon't post your e-mail address on your page. Small town Internet service providers and personal information contained in your e-mail address should also be protected.
Always understand that predators (terrorists, spies, and criminals) are out there just waiting to take advantage of others. Help keep your family safe by using good OPSEC.
One thing that all spouses and Family members need to remember is that during any deployment, there are support groups in place to help you. Most deploying units have Family Readiness Groups, usually run by more seasoned spouses. Many FRGs have password-protected, secure sites hosted on Army computer systems, like Army Knowledge On-Line.
If your unit doesn't have an FRG, call Army Community Service's Relocation Program for information on the Waiting Family Program. ACS is available for the myriad other things that might come up during a deployment. They can also refer you to other sources if it a situation outside their area of expertise.
Chances are good that nothing will ever happen. But there is always the chance that something might. If you feel you have to blog, keep your Family's safety in the forefront. Be safe so you will be here for your Soldier when he or she comes home.