Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sailors Speak During Deployment

The U.S. Naval Institute has a great article about Operational Security and social media. Many fingers have pointed at me, casting blame and others have shamed me for writing about the flawed Vacuum Holding and Transfer System on the USS George HW Bush. Others praise me and laud my courage.

Despite opinion in some camps, my son and I discussed OPSEC and morale at great length before I initiated my blog. Thinking I was clever, I created a blog separate from my personal website, but the moment the Navy glommed onto my site, or perhaps the moment the Navy Times broke the story, someone searched my name and thus the anonymity was breached. I know the sources of visits on this and my other site. I tend to be just clever enough to get into mischief, it seems. He did not know about the blog until his commander showed him the printed page of the first few posts.

Still, he desired effect has been achieved. Cipher locks have been changed to a common unlock code so all hands can access working heads after pressing just three buttons. I feel, however that my main point has been overlooked by many who have picked up on this. Taxpayers, whether or not they have family on board the USS George HW Bush or any ship, deserve to know that our tax dollars are providing what we expect and what we have been told.

If you have followed this story, you may have read Capt. Luther's "recommendation for upgrades" to the "perfect system" on his ship.

I did not undertake this lightly. With a World War II father, brothers who served in Vietnam and Dessert Storm, nephews currently serving or recently returned from Afghanistan and Iraq and with my own son deployed, I take a strong, protective viewpoint toward all active-duty military and I want to know - as a taxpayer - that our fighting men and women have access to working heads at sea or some sort of back up system in place for potential failure of what was known prior to deployment, as a flawed, yet "perfect," system .

By now, it’s widely known what my son’s rank is and how long he has proudly served. I have never claimed to be, as one commenter on another site stated, the “ultimate Navy mom,” nor is my son, as others have posted, “a whiny little brat.” We take his service career very seriously. Since asking me to sign permission for his Delayed Enlistment Program, he has not asked for a single thing. However, when his men asked him to do something, he reached out and asked me to find a way to let them know someone cares more than they felt at that time.

It’s easy for folks at home to send shoe boxes to deployed personnel and then close their eyes at night, knowing they have "made a difference." Sending letters and cards to “any soldier” or “any sailor” is almost effortless, but actually listening when those deployed men and women have voiced concerns – with cause – about their basic human need to find a working head, and then doing something about it was not an easy choice for me.

Here is U.S. Naval Institute article in a nutshell, but I recommend you read the entire article and check if you feel inclined, leave a comment there:

The ability for service members while deployed to keep in contact with their family is exponentially greater than it ever has been in the annals of history.
The conversation turns to what life is REALLY like while deployed. It’s not fun–I mean it can be, it is an adventure and most of the people you’re deployed with are good people.

But, there is a reason why less than 1% of the United States has served in uniform–It’s hard and you have to put up with a lot. In describing such a life, I think I have had to be the most careful with my Mom. There’s nothing wrong with this, nor am I saying that my Mom is one to over react, or over-worry about things. Rather, from my point of view, I don’t want to say anything to her that would make her worry more for her son.

Now, I think that yeoman is at least as savvy as my own son, who refused to tell me how bad the head situation was until after more than 5 months at sea - only after his men asked for some sort of sign that someone cared about them. Sometimes, it truly is best for families, especially mothers, not to know what goes on.

What makes it so difficult to describe the life we live is that outside of the context defined by the skin of a ship, it is hard to have the right perspective on what is actually going on. Regardless of how well I articulate that context, it tends to be something that one HAS to experience.
There has been no need for what can loosely be termed as ‘communications training’ for service members beyond OPSEC and INFOSEC, because the amount of time service members could possibly spend communicating with their families was very brief, and the odds of getting into things that could cause tumult ashore was small.
He believes my site may have changed things.
It’s a helluva situation, and I have to stop short of saying that a Sailor’s Mom was wrong for what she did.

Things like this with Sailor’s families is not altogether rare, either. Being a Yeoman, you open much of the mail that comes to the Ship. Some of that mail is from the United States Congress asking about a letter or phone call they received from a Sailor or their family.
The only site that has referred more traffic here than U.S. Naval Institute is Information Dissemination, a site that lambasted my efforts to communicate my frustration as a taxpayer.

I have become, to some, the Blogging Mommy and to others, the mother of That Sailor, both titles I wear proudly. If my blog helped my son become THAT SAILOR who helped unlock the doors to working heads for the sailors on the USS George HW Bush, I think I deserve a Bravo Zulu for my blog.

The fact that my son is on this ship is not the point, but taxpayers may not have known of the locked heads otherwise. He had gone through the chain of command, as had many others on board the ship. He never asked me to create the blog - it was not his idea. I thought my blog was an effective way for me to vent personally. I had no idea the government and military would actually be the ones to bring it to the attention of the press on my behalf - in a very roundabout way.

Many media outlets discover what gets the attention of the military and the government. Apparently my blog sparked such interest. The press picked this story up and ran with it, which helped to achieve the desired effect and ciphers were reset to a common decode so all hands had access to working heads.

Our enlisted men and women deserve to have someone speak out for them – especially about their basic human rights. I just want to be sure the system is not only running properly, but that there are backups in place for the next long term deployment.

Someone commenting on this story on another site suggested sending the engineers responsible for the system's installation and warranty out on the ship for a week. Feed and give them all they can drink. The idea is that before the week is over, the problem will be resolved.

Could I have done this differently? Absolutely.
Could I have done this more effectively? Possibly.
Would I do it again for other military personnel? Definitely!