COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
What do you think when you hear the term Operational Security (OPSEC)? I used to think “I don’t deal with classified information so why is this important to me?” Recent events and lapses in OPSEC have caught the attention of the previous and current secretary of defense, secretary of the Air Force, and chief of staff of the Air Force. As a matter of fact, the lapses in OPSEC were becoming so common it was not only undermining defense department operations they were undermining the secretary of state and presidential actions. Now stay with me here, I will get to the meat of why this is important to you shortly.
Most personnel don’t really know what OPSEC entails until they fully understand where and what conditions it came out of. Sun Tzu was quoted as saying “If I am able to determine the enemy’s dispositions while at the same time I conceal my own, then I can concentrate and he must divide.”
What application does OPSEC have to a small pilot training base such as Columbus Air Force Base? EVERYTHING! We train the world’s best pilots, deploy the world’s best trained Airmen warriors, and we have the world’s best support system … our families.
When we train our pilots, the squadron non-commissioned officers, instructor pilots, directors of operations, and commanders have all “been there and done that.” We are proud of where we have been and what we have done. Our Airmen come home and are excited about their accomplishments. Our families and support systems are proud of their husbands, wives, and children.
With all of this pride, it is easy to discuss pieces of deployment specifics or talk around something we know we shouldn’t ... this could be dangerous. We also have to be cognizant that when we left our deployed locations, someone else more than likely took our place and when we talk about the details of what we have done, it could potentially endanger their mission, their personal welfare, or others. A piece of the puzzle here is put together with a piece of the puzzle from somewhere else, and pretty soon the enemy has the whole picture knowing vulnerabilities, capabilities, and when and where to attack or degrade operations.
The Air Force’s focus is on identity management and social media, since it’s is where recent lapses have occurred. With everybody tweeting, using Instagram, and Facebooking, the immediate delivery of personal information can be both good and bad. For some reason we feel safe putting our lives online.
The good is people know everything there is to know about you, your family and your operations. The bad is people know everything there is to know about you, your family and your operations.
Protect your family, your credit, and your operations by not putting operational details, equipment, deployed locations, or personal information on the web. Once it is out there, it is out there to stay. It is a good idea to always operate under the assumption anything you post online might be stolen by criminals or adversaries.
You may have deleted it but smart hackers with a little bit of time can find out all they need to know to steal your life or damage a mission. Once it is out there it is out there to stay.
Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts of social media:
- Don’t post specific information about a service member’s deployment. This includes their location, deployment dates and unit. The less concrete information available to enemies online, the better.
- Don’t publicly ask for friends and family to remember your loved one online (in person, single text, or e-emails are ok but not in social media forums). You’re basically letting the Internet know a service member is going into a dangerous situation. This could tip off militants a fight is coming their way.
- Don’t put geotags on pictures or statuses, especially if they include a service member. Geotags emblazon your photos and statuses with your exact location. Failure to turn off this feature could leave a digital trail exposing you and your family’s whereabouts.
- Don’t count down or up to a loved one’s next troop movement. It might be exciting when a service member you love and miss is finally going home, or nerve wracking if they preparing to leave, but counting up or down to that moment makes it easy to predict when and where American troops will move next.
- Do update your passwords and social media privacy settings. Popular social media platforms are adjusting their privacy settings all the time. Make sure you’ve got your profile on lockdown.
- Do edit or delete photos that might reveal too much information. Blur and crop images revealing the names or ranks of uniformed service members. In some cases, getting rid of the picture entirely might be the best option.
- Do think before you post. The internet is forever. Just because you delete a photo doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Another user might have screenshotted your deleted image and posted it elsewhere. The best way to keep sensitive information secure is to never post it in the first place.
- Do connect with other military members and spouses, families and kids online. The military community is here to support and help military families and spouses. Don’t be afraid to join a Facebook group.
So now, when you are on social media or just in public forums, I hope OPSEC comes to mind. Remember, the enemy is listening, watching, and observing to gather any little nugget of information they can get to degrade an operation.
What you think is small pieces of info may cause significant second and third order effects degrading operations and possibly putting our brothers in arms in harm’s way.
The 14th Flying Training Wing Critical Information List (what we are supposed to protect) is posted on the Wing App under 14th FTW Guidance for easy access should you want to review it anytime. Always remember OPSEC and keep it in the forefront of all operations … Don’t give them what they want. For more information on ways to protect and secure your social media contact your unit OPSEC representative or contact wing plans office and we will get you the assistance you need.