Live stream from Iraq - MG Mike Oates of Task Force Mountain
We have MG Mike Oates up from Iraq. The moderator has asked him if he's gotten into any trouble due to his blogging. MG Oates says no, he has not.
He says he's trying to give his soldiers a forum for their questions, comments, and concerns.
He reports that he's looking for good, solid comments on procedures, feedback from families and spouses regarding on post policies, and he looks for feedback on how to improve the Army.
What about your counterparts? Has he talked to any of his counterparts? The Navy has started a process to drag their flag officers into this medium. Keep in mind that the majority of the flag officers are mid 40s to mid 50s and didn't grow up with this technology so there is hesitance and discomfort. There is also some discomfort with connecting directly with soldiers/sailors/airmen/Marines.
CJ is up with a question. We have a lot of high level leadership that are engaged in the milblogging community and are supportive of what we do. Yet there are soldiers that are still getting shut down, even though they've not violated any policies. Can you speak to what is being done to help the CoC accept and understand milblogging?
Oates: Some of it is logistical. There may not be bandwidth to handle it. Most of the problem lies with the lower level commanders and a fear of OPSEC violations.
Jack Holt has a question: when you use your blog as a leadership tool, what would you say to current and future leaders with regard to the effects of using a blog as a leadership tool?
Oates: If you're going to fish, you have to throw a line in to water where there are fish. If you want to talk to soldiers, you have to do the same. But the realization has to be made that soldiers in this forum are incredibly candid.
Greyhawk: The expansion of MND - what kind of progress is being seen due to that?
Oates: The expansion allowed them to take responsibility for 9 different provinces. The good news is that the IAP and IAF are taking greater and greater control and is significantly better than it has been. One thing he's seeing is that the people that were selected by the latest round of elections is that more educated people are coming into power.
Greyhawk: With regard to the Sons of Iraq: update? How goes the transition to Iraqi control?
Oates: the successes seen due to the existence of SoI have been remarkable. It is still a flashpoint in that area but they are watching it carefully. The area is still very secure.
Bob King : Blogging has not yet been institutionalized. What can be done to institutionalize it and provide top cover so that when leaders who believe in blogging leave, the blogging remains?
Oates: Pressure can be put o the Army to do so. A balance has to be determined between OPSEC and information.
Question: What keeps you awake at night?
Oates: an accidental collision with the Iranians along the border. The Iranians continue to engage and provide support to insurgents. That's a tough one to dance around.
Question: Some say that the war in Iraq is over? Is there some kind of internal campaign to keep it going and keep morale up for those going to Iraq?
Oates: on an individual standpoint, it can be seen as being over. But in the bigger picture, it is still on-going and the enemy is still capable of attacks. We are trying to reach some kind of sustainable security.
Question: more pictures coming from Abu Ghraib. Are you expecting any backlash from this release and if so, how will you prepare for it?
Oates: we've had time since the first release to prepare for it and to make sure that the Iraqis understand that those pictures are not representative of who we are.
Question: WRT SOFA guidelines, do you forsee any problems in your AO in terms of reaching those requirements?
Oates: negotiations are underway to hash out details. He expects some limitations but they will work with it.
Question: WRT DADT, what would you say reflects your soldiers' attitudes toward that policy?
Oates: the majority were in favor of modifying the policy but he's not sure if that reflects a wide majority of opinions or just a wide variety of opinions on his site.
Question: What advice do you have for milbloggers to help ensure/assist the goal of victory and supporting our troops?
Oates: candid remarks bring candid response. He reminds his leaders all the time that they lead American soldiers. You have to be willing to take the time to explain and be candid. The response will then be positive and will not need spin.
Question: What is your overall blog strategy and do you ask your staff and subordinate commanders to blog?
Oates: don't ask anyone else to blog but does ask them to look at the responses as there are golden gems in there. Great things to look at as leaders. Strategy: Keep our soldiers informed. Blogging seemed to be the easiest way to do that.
Question: is the blog open to everyone?
Oates: Yes. Online chat open tomorrow. He welcomes anyone who is interested in improving the Army, his installation, and his organization.