Social media offers potential, pitfalls
Maj. Gen. James Milano is the commanding general of Fort Jackson.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- I will be the first to admit it. I do not understand all of the intricacies and ins and outs of social media, but I do understand the benefits both personally and professionally. I recently have created a Facebook page as a means to connect with my friends and family, as well as with Soldiers and their families. At times, it has been difficult for me to understand all that the site has to offer.

For example, how to manage my security settings and what it means to "like" a comment, or tag a photo.

Nevertheless, I can already recognize the amazing potential of social media. The user has the ability to reach out to an audience far beyond the range of traditional media. Case in point: The Fort Jackson Leader Facebook page has enabled thousands of family members of Basic Combat Training Soldiers here at Fort Jackson to share their common experiences and provide support for each other as they await the graduation of their Soldier in training.

For most Facebook users, the dialogue is audience to audience. But it is important to remember that as a Soldier, your communication can be perceived as Army to audience.

Although you are only stating your opinion, it might be a far cry from the official position that the Army takes. You need to stay aware of that fact. It's an important one that our public affairs specialists always stress when conducting their media training classes. The message here is simple; be careful of what you say. You are representing the Army, although you might be off duty and lounging around in your civilian clothes with your laptop.

There are a number of operational security concerns, as well, that we should keep in mind when using social media, not only Facebook, but also Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and any other social networking site. There is no such thing as being too cautious. Although social media is a great chance to interact with family, friends and colleagues, OPSEC is a 24/7 exercise of protecting critical and sensitive information on the job and at home.

The problem sometimes with technology is that it leaps so fast, making it hard to recognize any of the possible hidden dangers before some damage is done. If you use caution and common sense, coupled with security settings, you are off to a good start.

The correct implementation of social media at Fort Jackson is important because our main demographic - young BCT Soldiers - are heavily engaged in the use of the new technology. We have a memorandum in place (Policy Memorandum 7-4, Use of Social Media) that spells out what is permitted. It contains specific information regarding content. Any blogger should be aware of our policy before posting written material or photographs.

Also, I hold commanders and directors accountable for quality assurance and they are also expected to train and educate their people on security, OPSEC, and network assurance measures to mitigate threats.

As for individuals who participate, they are accountable and responsible for quality assurance of material they post to social media in an official capacity. Additionally, they are accountable for the misuse of official information they improperly post in a non-official capacity.

We leaders recognize that Soldiers are the Army's best spokespeople. We also encourage Soldiers to show personal pride in their jobs. However, Soldiers need to maintain the same professional conduct and discipline in the virtual world as they do in the real world.

There are standards, as well, that need to be met.

Army Strong and Victory Starts Here!

My Facebook site is located at: http://bit.ly/c86Da0. You can also search for Mike Milano on www.facebook.com.

Page last updated Thu August 12th, 2010 at 08:19