2009 MBC Panel 1

Panel 1: Back to Our Roots

Alex Horton - Army of Dude
Rebekah Sanderlin - Operation Marriage
TSO - This Ain't Hell
Maggie - Boston Maggie and Castle Argghhh!
Solomon Fein - Normandy D-Day Vet

Maggie's already started, kicking Alex out of "her" seat.

Several bloggers had the opportunity to spend time at the White House yesterday. Alex had a chance to introduce the White House peeps to his blog. He's explaining now how he got started blogging right before his deployment with 3rd Stryker BDE out of Fort Lewis. He opted not to involve his superiors in his blogging and tried his best to keep it anonymous but gained notoriety when he corrected an LA Times reporter.

Next up is Rebekah Sanderlin from Operation Marriage. She writes for the Fayetteville Journal.

TSO writes over at This Ain't Hell and gained notoriety after asking his CongressCritter why he wasn't there when TSO got back from his deployment. He rejoined the Army while in law school (he hated law school). The unit he wound up in had morale issues so he started up an Onion-like newspaper. About a year ago, he participated in the "Winter Soldier" hearings before Congress.

And then there's Maggie...yesterday at the Pentagon, Maggie played her role as the "ultimate equalizer" and called out Admiral Thorpe on a variety of issues. She's explaining how and why she got involved in blogging.

Missing from the panel is Solomon Fein who is blogging about Normandy. He's 86 and, "next to John Donovan, he's the oldest blogger out there".

The first question is one from a military wife who wants to know whether Rebekah gets pressure from other military wives because of the extra loud voice and bully pulpit she's afforded. According to Rebekah, she's not aware of any.

Matt asks the question of Alex, whether he has noticed a change based on the increased regulations surrounding in-theatre blogging. Alex says that there are fewer sensational blogs out there than before. One of his favorites - The War on Big Tobacco - is on hiatus due to the regs.

Next question is for Mark - do you think your blogging provides a perspective or can actually inform/influence the media? A few months ago, he did a post regarding IAVA's "scorecard" concerning veterans and he says that he doesn't try to change the big picture. Rather he tries to highlight the little things and affect changes in smaller spheres.

Maggie has been asked to discuss some of the benefits of blogging. The vacations are outstanding and blogging gives her the opportunity and ammunition (no pun intended) to combat the "headline readers".

Mark is asked whether his chain of command was a factor in his blogging. He found out that his chain of command were fans of his blog. They saw the humor in it and it wasn't a problem. He says he has more issues with his current civilian employer than his chain of command.

Alex is asked how it has affected him. When he got started, JP Borda was in his unit and he didn't know that JP was "in charge" of milblogging. When he started, blogging was something he kept to himself, as he didn't see putting his thoughts out there as particularly masculine. At one point, he became aware of the fact that his chain of command was reading his blog at a time where he criticized decisions surrounding events in his company but that it wasn't a problem. The support he received from his chain of command was surprising, even in the face of criticism.

Question for Rebekah - what kind of conversations did you have with your husband concerning what you write about? She says her husband is somewhat her chain of command. There is a fine line to walk between creating an interesting blog while not encroaching on his privacy. She tries to keep the subject matter less personal and aimed more toward the Army in general.

A question from the audience as to whether than has been any blowback - for Rebekah or for her husband. She says it's been limited.

Maggie says that she's had 3 instances where she's dealt with people's issues concerning her posts and at all times, she's taken them seriously.

TSO is discussing the evolution of blogging. He says the smaller blogs are more subject to the winds of change than the larger blogs. He says that the smaller blogs can discuss things that the Bigger Army cannot. They tend to be pushed by the dynamics that the Big Army isn't effected by.

Matt's doing pretty well; given the fact that I think he's still drunk.

He asks the question, how do we get back to our roots?

TSO says we need to give a voice to the people that are deploying. Even a paragraph - even that is enough. The MSM sources have dried up overseas so giving a voice to the guys on the ground. Even if they don't want to start their own blog - just giving them an opportunity to tell their story is enough.

Maggie suggests keeping in mind the fact that there are non-technical types out there and bloggers need to keep that in mind when writing - not everyone understands "military-ese".

Matt asks Alex where the disconnect comes in between his now-civilian life and his "real life". How do you express that? Do you get personal on your military-themed blog? Alex says that he does get personal now and that his blog has changed focus in the year that he's been home. It's more about his journey back into the civilian world than the Army these days. You have to wear different hats, depending on the situation. He says it's a weird place to be.

TSO says the transition is tough for him as well. He read an article that said that the "first year of law school is the worst year of your life". Which struck him as funny after a year overseas. The dichotomy of experiences between him and his classmates made it tough to associate with them.

Alex agrees - he kept his experiences to himself until he felt it necessary to shed a little light on his classmates' misconceptions. Then he outs himself as the right wing terrorist that he is.

Jack Holt has a comment at the mic - "This is more of a growth process than a movement process. You are the roots - you are the roots of the military in America; the body of knowlege and experience that this nation needs to move forward."

Chap finds it amazing that he has to drive to DC to find a blogger in Fayetteville. How do you (the bloggers) deal with updating blogrolls as bloggers tend to come and go?

Mark says he doesn't know. They try to emulate the strong blogs out there that do it well. The symbiotic relationship between big and little blogs is a good thing.

Alex points out that, for lack of a better word, it's a web - you go to one blog and that leads you to another and another...

Question from the audience...how do you avoid talking in a bubble? How do you bring in new ideas and keep yourself open and make sure that you represent the views of ALL of the military and not just those that share your views?

TSO says that milblogs aren't particularly good at that - we tend to assume that everyone knows what we're talking about, even if they don't. Having teamed up with those on the other side of the fence, they are trying to fix that though the intent may be nefarious.

Alex says "go the extra step and explain yourself".

Question from the audience - how important is the mentoring process to blogging?

Alex: finding those new blogs and taking them under your wing is huge. It is important to offer your services and help out those starting out.

Rebkah: without an actual site, it's tough to do.

TSO: there's nothing more discouraging than someone who is in theatre, does a great post, and no one reads it. He tries to highlight soldiers in country that are blogging. Blackfive helped him so he tries to pass it on. Doesn't do you any good to write a Pulitzer Prize winning piece if no one reads it.

Lindy - is there anything your military can do to make this easier for bloggers? Seems like it's a crap shoot, depending on command.

Alex says that OPSEC should be the only reg that milbloggers should be following. No one has found good policy a to what should and should not go on a site other than OPSEC. Regulations will kill the blogging world. It's self-regulating and should be left to do so.

Matt says that defining OPSEC is like defining pornography - where is the line?

TSO points out that that is a tough one - he goes back and points out - again - that it's a self-correcting entity.

Maggie points out that it's not the bloggers that are violating OPSEC. Look around - milbloggers are more careful than the MSM when it comes to OPSEC issues.

Bob King from Leavenworth is encouraging milblogs to point to CAC blogs - he's concerned that when GEN Caldwell leaves, the push for blogging in theatre and at higher levels of command will fade.

Troy from Bouhammer asks WHY do we want to go "back" to our roots rather than to grow? What is our motivation? And then when do we become too big? At what point do we become that which we despise?

And we're on break...

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