LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Army News Service, Sept. 30, 2008) -- Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Chief of Public Affairs Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner participated in a live blogger's roundtable panel at the 2008 MilBlog Conference held Sept. 20 in conjunction with the Blog World Expo.
The live blogger's roundtable was an inaugural event for the conference, providing military bloggers with the opportunity to ask questions of Army leadership.
The 3rd annual MilBlog Conference brought together key military bloggers, including active-duty Soldiers, military supporters, civilians and veterans who blog about military issues.
Secretary Geren led off the panel by taking questions from bloggers on topics from policy to how he would rate his own Internet savvy.
"I use the Internet a great deal," said Geren. "I use it for research; I have many Web sites that I go to regularly as a way to research and get news to stay informed.
As far as blogging, I can tell you that it's not something that I was very familiar with more than a couple years ago."
Geren went on to say that the rise of bloggers who were able to influence news and make headlines made him take a closer look. And over the past year, in particular, he has looked for ways to increase the Army's knowledge of blogs and new media, and has participated in two roundtables with on-line journalists, in addition to encouraging other leaders within the Army.
Geren acknowledged that the Army's increased awareness of blogs is critical as it looks to reach out to 17-25 year-olds - "the heart and soul of our Army."
"It's just a recognition that the world changes, and there's probably nothing more dynamic in the word than information technology and communications technology," said Geren. "And the way we communicated 20 years ago is different than 10 years ago and 10 years ago is different than today, and six months from now is going to be different from today as well. And as an organization, as an institution, we've got to work very hard to keep up. We're a national institution - we've got over 1 million Soldiers, Active, Guard and Reserve, over a million dependents, when you consider spouses and kids. And we have multi-millions of parents out there. And as an institution, it's critical that we reach out and communicate with as many parts of the expanded Army family as well as the general public as we can."
The Secretary also offered that as young people increasingly find their news online, the need to be in that space is crucial to educating and informing the American people.
"We've got to embrace every form of media, and this new medium - and particularly blogging, for many people - has replaced traditional media as a way to get news," said Geren. "And not only to get news, but to educate themselves, the back and forth that blogs offer. So I see it as an addition of what we're doing, and a mechanism to reach some people who you don't reach at all through so-called traditional media."
Maj. Gen. Bergner offered the unique perspective of having participated in blogger's roundtables as a spokesperson for Multi-National Force-Iraq.
"I found in the course of doing those that I sometimes learned just as much, if not more, from the questions and the perspectives I was offered, as perhaps those who were participating in the roundtables learned from me," said Bergner. "So I really do value the interaction and the opportunity to hear the perspectives of milbloggers in particular."
Bergner offered his perspective on what bloggers bring to the table that makes their perspective so critical.
"It's the personal aspect of what bloggers are able to convey," said Bergner. "No one can do it with the same personal insights, the perspective, and the texture that comes with those dialogues. That is what is so meaningful for the American people and so important for the Army because all of us want Soldiers to be able to tell their story, like only a Soldier can do."
Bergner also offered a roadmap toward the future, stating that the Army has and will continue to evolve its practices with the growth of new media and on-line communications.
"We really do have some cultural challenges, and it really is all about getting some new ideas into the Army, but also getting some of the old ideas out of the Army," said Bergner. "And that's going to be a bit of a generational challenge."
Bergner went on to say that the secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George Casey are just the people to help bring about that cultural change, having already made tremendous progress in the growth and advancement of the Army. Bergner highlighted the advances the Army has made in just a short time, and credited the operational organization of the Army as a great "forcing function."