By Forrest Berkshire, U.S. Army Cadet CommandApril 19, 2011
LEXINGTON, Va., April 19, 2011 -- As often happens, Cadet Shane Sinda was named the webmaster of his battalion because he was "the computer guy."
The senior computer networking system major at Michigan Technological University found himself in charge of revamping his battalion's website, which he described as "in shambles," and setting up a Facebook page.
But the hours of work he put into the additional duty soon paid off, when he was talking to some freshmen who walked up to him and said the way they found his school's ROTC unit was through the website.
"It was just an eye-opener that this really works," Sinda said Monday, during a break at the George C. Marshall Awards and Leadership Seminar on the campus of Washington & Lee University.
That experience spurred Sinda to attend a roundtable session titled "Social Media: Relevance to our Army and Responsibility of our Army."
The cadets got to hear from an Army officer who has worked for the last nine months at search giant Google Inc. as part of an Army program that partners active duty officers with industry.
"It's not going to make you a good leader," Maj. Roger Cabiness said. "But it will help make you a better leader."
Cabiness encouraged the cadets, who will soon commission as second lieutenants, to take the initiative when they get their first platoon and tap in to technology to enhance communication with their Soldiers.
He gave the cadets a brief overview of social media's short history, discussed some of the current trends of users' habits, and warned them that change is coming even to the platforms that now dominate the industry.
"It's not just Facebook. It's not just Twitter," Cabiness said, referring to the two dominant social media venues today.
Cabiness discussed some uses of social media at the brigade and company levels, and encouraged the future lieutenants to take on such a task if their first duty assignments lack these communications tools.
But, he said, they shouldn't let computers supplant tried and true ways.
"Do not lose that human interaction," he said.
Cadets took away several lessons from the session that they planned to apply once they returned to campus.
"It really made sense when he said to first determine 'What are you trying to say and who are you trying to reach,' " said Adam Obregon, a cadet from the University of the Incarnate Word who sat in on the session.
"It made sense, what he said about breaking it down, even to the platoon level," said Mark Barreras, a Texas A&M University cadet who also heard Cabiness' presentation.
Cabiness also told the cadets they would be the resident experts among the officers in their first assignments, due mostly to the fact they would be the youngest, and it would be their jobs to educate older senior leaders. He also warned them at some day, they would be the older generation and as younger officers cycled under their command, they should keep an open mind.
"There will always be that generational gap," Cabiness said.