May 19, 2007
  THE VOLUNTEER ARMY AND CYBERSPACE
U.S. Soldiers rest during their search for three missing comrades after an attack, six days ago, which left four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi translator dead, in Cargouli village, near Youssifiyah, 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday May 17, 2007. An exhaustive search for the missing men is in its sixth day. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo) Eds Note: image shot through Humvee window, causing shadow at right.
(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
The military recently decided that they didn't want soldiers at war emailing and blogging and hanging out at MySpace.com on government computers.

They say the issue revolves around too much bandwidth and some security issues. Who believes this?

The real truth is that the military has needed to reign in the commo of the troops and what they are doing when not fighting the war. All along, I have had my doubts about what all this instant communication is doing to their focus.

I can surely understand the other side-the loneliness, the lack of opportunity to talk to loved ones. Blogging and e-mailing seem to be a great boost to morale. But, what about a platoon leader who finds out his wife has found interests elsewhere or the family who needs the dad at home for soccer matches or to fix the washer or to take a firm hand with a son or daughter. In the old days of Vietnam, for instance, the soldier would think about all of this and may have gotten information through letters, but it was nowhere as instantaneous as it is now.

In an emergency, a soldier could possibly use what in the old days was called MARS. (Military Affiliate Radio System). The soldier would have to plan ahead or get someone do it for him and then when he finally made connection, he would have to end the portion of his comments with "over." (Think M*A*S*H, on TV--Radar with the ancient instrument to his ear, trying to accomplish some task).This now would be a neanderthal communication system. However, in Iraq, the soldier can be off patrolling the mean streets of Baghdad, concerned for his life and his friends; and, in a few hours, be back somewhere on the "net" emailing or text messaging his wife or girlfriend or buds on MySpace. No way to run a war.

Having to deal with family issues while at war can be incredibly distracting and interfere with the mission. War is no day at the beach and allowing troops to be distracted from it is lethal for them among other issues.

In war, there is always inequity. We faced it in Vietnam with nine support troops for every ground pounder (combat arms soldiers). There were soldiers who were suffering the daily travails of war off in the jungles with not even a hot meal while others were living a good life.

I'm not sure it is the same in Iraq but surely there are scores of soldiers who never go out on the road, who don't have to worry about insurgents, IEDs, or suicide bombers- These soldiers are inside the relative safety of the Green Zone and those at bases spread throughout Iraq like mechanics, mess hall personnel; those who operate the radios, and a thousand and one more support and necessary jobs. They may have time for MySpace; but, by in large, this is not a good thing.

WHO IS AT FAULT/and/or responsible for where we are? By in large, Commanders at all levels are at fault.

Well meaning morale issues are always important, but commanders have to know the overall picture and make decisions accordingly. It is very easy for us to be armchair quarterbacks to sit around and cognate our navels about the war. But, commanders, especially young captains, and their battalion commanders are on the ground and have to make hard decisions. We are at war and being focused on that task is the only paramount. KT





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