Friday, February 26, 2010

Official Department of Defense Social Media Policy released

The Department of Defense's long-awaited official social media policy has finally hit the streets.

This morning, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Mr. Price Floyd, issued the official DoD guidelines on social media.

To view the new policy memorandum, visit

To read a recent PC Magazine article on the new policy, go here.

While the new policy basically gives the green light to uniformed personnel to engage in such online social media tools as Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, the memorandum raises concerns regarding ethics, operational security and privacy.

"This directive recognizes the importance of balancing appropriate security measures while maximizing the capabilities afforded by 21st Century Internet tools," said Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III.

In a press release issued today, the DoD asks commanders and heads at all levels of the DoD to continue to defend against malicious activities on military information networks, to deny access to prohibited sites (gambling, pornography or sites which encourage hate-crime related activities), and take immediate and commensurate actions, as required to safeguard the missions of our country's military members.

The memorandum also makes it policy that non-classified DoD networks be configured to provide access to Internet-based capabilities across all DoD components. The DoD also included a Q&A which gives insight into how they expect the military services to leverage social media tools.

As recently as 2009, individual military branches were considering a near total ban on access for their members to social media networks.

While the squabbling over access ensued, the DoD queried each branch of the military, asking them for their particular 'best practices' in dealing with the world of social media. To listen to the National Public Radio interview with Mr. Floyd, and the story on social media in the military, check out the audio transcript here.

The DoD also launched a pro-social media campaign via none other than the very avenue in question--blogs, Twitter and Bloggers Roundtable discussions. Indeed, Mr. Floyd as their biggest social networking proponent, appeared as a regular guest on and other online venues, touting the benefits of the military adopting this new "social" way of communication.

In late 2009, with the DoD deadline for ideas and submissions looming, the Social Media Chief for the National Guard Bureau, Mr. Rick Breitenfeldt, submitted National Guard social media guidelines to the DoD. Input to this document was provided from National Guard Bureau Public Affairs, and NGB's very own social media program, which by that time had been in place for almost a year.

At the same time, Oregon had been building a social media program of its own, complete with over-arching guidelines and policy. The guidelines cited specific information contained in Air Force Instruction (AFI), DoD Directives, and in the Uniform Military Code of Justice (UCMJ), in addition to industry best practices and corporate Internet user policies.

By the start of 2010, the Oregon National Guard informed the media about their official Facebook Fan Page, Twitter account, YouTube page, and a Flickr account. By then, its own official blog, which boasted hundreds of posts was a "go-to" resource for many followers, and the Oregon National Guard Twitter page had become a resource for breaking news. All the Oregon National Guard sites were registered with both the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force official registry sites, as required by these two services. To view both pages, go here, and here, respectively.

The Oregon National Guard was also heavily involved in social bookmarking, actively monitored blogs, and stayed abreast of other government agencies' social media sites. It also kept an eye on blogs and Facebook pages of other Oregonians--partly to keep abreast of new developments in the blogosphere, and partly to ensure its own members were not overstepping the boundaries established by the Oregon National Guard's own fledgling guidelines.

As it stands today, the Oregon National Guard's social media effort is not earth-shattering in any way, shape or form. Our followers number in the low thousands--but through our various online tools, we continue to provide robust and diverse topics of discussion and information to our followers and online friends.

Moreover, we have leveraged these powerful communication tools during emergency response--utilizing Twitter and Facebook to communicate updates to our followers and members of the local media during the recent Mount Hood rescue attempt in Jan. 2010, and during important events involving our Airmen and Soldiers, including mobilizations, homecomings, community events, and items which benefit our members and their families.

I have heard from many of our fellow National Guard members throughout the country that the Oregon National Guard runs a model social media program that is often the envy of other states' public affairs offices. This is perhaps the best compliment we could have ever received.

But these kudos are not possible without you, our audience. We thank you for your support and your patronage. We constantly strive to provide you--regardless if you are a member of the Oregon National Guard, or a family member, friend, employer, supporter, or a member of the general public--with quality information, entertainment and discussions, of and about Oregon's citizen-Airmen and citizen-Soldiers.

We invite you to give us your feedback. Let us know how we are doing, and ideas about making our social media program better.

In the coming days, I plan to lay out the the DoD guidelines side by side next to the Oregon National Guard guidelines to ensure we are in sync. Chances are, since I assisted in drafting U.S. Air Force social media guidelines during the summer of 2008, and leveraged that work to create the Oregon National Guard social media guidelines later that year, we're probably pretty darn close.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

Editor's Note: One other noteworthy point to come out of the official DoD guidelines on social media is the requirement of disclaimers on all opinion pieces--and I am more than happy to comply. So here goes:

"The views expressed in posts on the Oregon Military Department blog are those of the author(s), and do not reflect the opinions or policies of the Department of Defense, the National Guard Bureau, or the Oregon National Guard or any of its entities."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oregon's Civil Support Team a great resource for local authorities

Above: Members of the Oregon National Guard's 102 Civil Support Team consult with personnel from the Polk County Sheriff's Department, Salem Fire and Salem Police Departments in a West Salem neighborhood on Feb. 22, after investigators found evidence of bomb-making materials in a residence there. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office).

When something goes "boom" in the middle of the night, chances are the local police will receive a phone call.

And more than likely, the Oregon National Guard's 102 Civil Support Team may be requested to assist them.

Such was the case yesterday afternoon, when Polk County Sheriffs responded to a disturbance in a West Salem neighborhood involving a 19-year old who was found to have bomb-making materials in his parents' home.

Members of the 102 CST worked into the late evening, assisting Salem Police Bomb Squad and Polk County Sheriffs in rendering the home safe, and removed all the suspected materials. To read the Salem News story on this incident, go here.

In light of all the media attention focused on the incident, questions about what the CST does came up this morning. I thought it was a great opportunity to highlight exactly what it is our Civil Support Team does here in Oregon.

The 102 CST supports local, state and federal civil authorities in the event of an incident involving weapons of mass destruction or significant loss of life or property. In the case of yesterday's incident, luckily the only significant loss was a tree in the 19-year old's back yard--which he blew up the night before he was arrested. However, the potential for catastrophic loss or damage is always great when dealing with explosives.

The mission of the CST is to support civil authorities during domestic incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear materials. The highly-trained individuals in our CST help identify agents and substances, assess current and projected concequences, and advise civil authorities on appropriate response measures.

Oregon's CST consists of 22 full-time active Guard personnel, who are members of both the Oregon Air National Guard and Oregon Army National Guard. They are alinged directly under the control of Oregon's Governor. They provide command, operations, administrative, logistics, medical and communications skillsets to civilian authorities when they are deployed to any location.

The key phrase here is support. That was quite evident yesterday in West Salem, where members of Oregon's CST worked seamlessly with members of the Polk County Sheriff's Department and the Salem Police Department to render safe what could have potentially turned into a life-threatening situation.
The Oregon National Guard's 102 Civil Support Team--Always Ready, Always There!
To view the rest of the photos from this incident, visit our Flickr page here.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

Monday, February 22, 2010

Oregon airmen continue to assist in somber recovery efforts in Haiti

Above: The overall scene at the Hotel Montana in Haiti, where earthquake recovery efforts continue. (Photo courtesy of 123rd Weather Flight).

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Feb. 14, 2010) – It’s 6:00 a.m. on Valentine’s Day. A weary sun slowly lifts its head over a sea of tents at the Port-au-Prince Airport, as a group of uniformed airmen gather around a U.S. Air Force master sergeant, as he ticks off the names of volunteers on his clipboard.

In the past few days, Lt. Gibson and I worked 12-hour shifts forecasting the weather, while our other teammates, Tech. Sgt. Fischer and Staff Sgt. Jenkins volunteered in the recovery effort.

Today, it’s my turn to help.

The pre-dawn informational briefing provided safety tips to use for any situation in which you are left scrambling through piles of dangerous rubble, and also introduced us to code words to use if human remains or personal items are discovered. We were also told about available grief counseling.

As we leave the airport for the first time since arriving in Haiti two weeks ago, we see the devastation everywhere. Words and pictures just can’t convey the extent of the damage.

Every building shows visible damage; from cracks, or to the more severe - a pile of twisted metal and concrete. The damage appears completely random, with one building completely intact, while the next is a total ruin. An occasional goat or pig can be seen eating piles of garbage and there is no evidence of sanitation services. We passed numerous refugee camps, some being in U.N. compounds with orderly white tents, while others were random tent cities with multi colored tents, or tarps and sheets, providing the only shelter and color in the area.

What seemed overwhelming were the rows and rows of demolished homes and businesses which were not being cleared. They were just piles of heavy ruin. How will the Haitians be able to rebuild before hurricane season without assistance clearing away the rubble? I can only hope that someone, somewhere, has a plan.

We arrived at the foot of the hill where the Hotel Montana was located and began hiking towards the worksite. I was totally caught off guard. There was no indication that this site had been a hotel, let alone a luxury hotel because all that existed were mountains of concrete, rebar, and general rubble.

I thought of the photos of the World Trade Center. Most ominous was the overwhelming smell of death that was everywhere. Even with masks the smell is impossible to ignore and quickly permeates our uniforms, gear, and equipment.

Dozens of pieces of heavy equipment and dump trucks operating non-stop on the site of the Hotel Montana. The area is divided into four zones, each with a team assigned to an excavator, which is moving most of the large pieces of concrete and making it easier for the teams to spot remains. Each time the excavator collected a bucket full of rubble, I would watch to see if there was anything exposed as it lifted away, and other members of the team would study the dirt and debris as it was dumped nearby.

We were searching for less than 40 minutes when the excavator operator stopped what he was doing and began motioning towards the excavation pit. I climbed down 30 feet of rubble into the pit with one of the Urban Search and Rescue personnel, and began looking under and around bowling ball sized pieces of concrete. It’s important to look closely so you don’t overlook anything, but we find it easier to pinpoint human remains using our sense of smell.

After moving pieces of concrete, we found the remains of a male employee. His employee badge was nearby, making identification easier. The two of us gently laid him into a body bag and carried him up to the waiting stretcher and work crew.

We secured him on the stretcher, and three men helped me lift him while a Kenyon employee sounded an air horn. One blast of the air horn brought all of the heavy equipment and workers to an abrupt halt to observe a momentary memorial, as we slowly made our way to the mortuary affairs tent. Military and civilian recovery workers alike stand silently and pay tribute to the procession and person that we’ve recovered.

Tears welled in my eyes at the somber mood and the respect that was paid one last time to this individual that we only knew as fellow human being. As we enter the mortuary affairs tent, two blasts from the air horn signaled the resumption of the recovery effort, which seemed to take on a renewed sense of resolve.

All of the military members working at the Hotel Montana are volunteers and are doing this work in addition to their 12-hour work schedules. There are U. S. Air Force, Army, Navy, and Canadian military working together sharing the same profound understanding of the importance of information for families and loved ones.

Work continued throughout the morning. I lost count of how many times we climbed down the mountain of concrete and rebar to see if what we thought we saw was a human, or simply another shoe or shirt. I did it gladly and wasn’t upset or discouraged when it turned out to be a false alarm—in fact, it was a huge relief. I don’t think I realized just how many shoes most of us own or take on vacation until I had to look in shoe after shoe to find all of them filled with dirt and sand.

Several hours later, just before lunch we found another person and the morning’s somber observation of silence for yet another earthquake victim was repeated.

We worked for 12 hours with a 20-minute break. We found a total of five people and it was both one of the most rewarding and heartbreaking days of my military career. I will be going back to the Hotel Montana for another shift, and I hope that we can continue to find those lost, loved ones so that they can go home to their families one last time.

Master Sgt. Ken Campbell, 123rd Weather Flight, Oregon Air National Guard
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oregon airmen helping relief effort in Haiti settle in

On Feb. 2, I reported on four airmen from the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing, who left Oregon for six months in order to assist in the ongoing relief effort in Haiti.

The four airmen will spend six months in Haiti, providing weather operations support to the 24th Air Expeditionary Group at Port-au-Prince in Haiti.

How they got there is an interesting story in itself. I'll let their default spokesperson, Master Sgt. Ken Campbell, tell you the story himself. He did mention that they're lacking in MWR and entertainment items, and would love to have various flavors of Crystal Light drink mix. I've attached his teams' mailing address at the end of this post.

But first, the "hero" shot he sent me this morning:

Four airmen of the Oregon Air National Guard, after arriving at the Port-au-Prince Airport in Haiti. From left to right: Master Sgt. Ken Campbell, Tech. Sgt. Michael Fischer, Staff Sgt. Matt Jenkins, and Lt. Mark Gibson.

Greetings from Haiti! I hope that everything is going well in Portland. I just wanted to give you an update and let you know how things are going with us here.

We arrived in Charlston, S.C., and got put in the queue for our military airlift to Haiti. There was quite a backlog of people and equipment and it was taking some personnel almost a week to be scheduled for airlift into Port-au-Prince. It was a little bit of a surprise to our team because we had packed for Haiti and not for chilly South Carolina. We were delayed for five days and after several mission cancellations, we flew down on Super Bowl Sunday. We were orginally on the flight that was going to do the Super Bowl flyover, but that was cancelled after discussions between the Air Force and CBS.

We arrived in Haiti at 9:00 p.m. and in-processed with the 24 Air Expeditionary Group (24AEG) before finding a tent to haul our gear to for the night. I've deployed to a lot of places during my career, but this one is one of the most challeging. Our tents are 300 meters from the runway, so you not only hear, but can feel every aircraft that takes off by day and night. That's a tough one considering we have about 80 flights a day in and out of Port-au-Prince.

All of our tents have 16-18 people in them when the desired manageable number of people would be about 12. Some cots are so close together that you have to crawl into them from the foot of the cot. There is minimal room for gear or personal items, and we have dayshift, swing shift, and night shift sleeping in the same tents.

We now have a shower tent, but there are over 700 Air Force and hundreds of Army, Navy, and a few Australians thrown in, that have to find time and spacde to clean up. We have four washing machines for all of our laundry needs, but that's still better than washing our uniforms in buckets like we were (originally) doing.

We do have a sufficient number of portable toilets, which is a relief! There are no hot meals and the two kitchens that were scheduled to be delivered have, to the best of our knowledge, been cancelled. We receive three MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) a day and there is plenty of drinkable water. The running joke lately is how long it will take us to come down with scurvy.

There is no MWR at all, which is to be expected, but many people deployed before they had an opportunity to purchase books or other mindless activities to relieve the stress. The Communications unit is hoping to set up a tent for us to use the Internet during our off hours.

We have set up a Base Weather station from scratch and are working 12-hour shifts with no days off. We have built into our schedule time to volunteer with recovery efforts in Port-au-Prince, and I will send another e-mail detailing my participatin in recover efforts at the Hotel Montana on Valentine's Day.

We are providing weather support to military operations to include Air Force, Army, Canadian and Australian military forces. We will begin working with the Haitian and the National Weather Service soon to evaluate how we can assist them with their operations in advance of the rainy season and Hurricane Season.

Lt. Gibson has done a great job of working with the 24AEG staff and other entities here at the airport. I can't begin to tell you how proud of my guys I am. They're working hard, have great attitudes, are volunteering for extra duties and responsibilities, and take everything in stride. I've got a great deployment team!

We also now have a mailing address if anyone would like to write us or send us care packages. We are short on most items and the individual crystal light drink mixes seem to be a hot commodity.

Kenneth P. Campbell, MSgt., USAF
NCOIC Battlefield Weather Team
24 AEG, Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Care packages can be sent to the following address:

MSgt. Ken Campbell
c/o 24 AEG/Battlefield Weather Team
APO AA, 34063

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Life in a small town: You can't slip through the cracks, even to surprise your daughter

Oregon Army National Guard Maj. Mike Burghardt thought he had it all figured out.

He'd fly home on leave during his deployment to Iraq with the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, sneak into his town of Clatskanie, Ore., make his way to his daughter's first Varsity basketball game at the Clatskanie High School, and surprise her.

But the townsfolk of Clatskanie wouldn't have it.

Yesterday, as 15-year old Holly Burghardt made her way to basketball practice, she would pass signs in town reading, "Welcome Back Mike Burghardt!"

Friends at school asked her if she had seen the welcome home signs for her dad at Fultano's Pizza Parlor in downtown Clatskanie.

Evidently, you can't slip through the cracks in a small town--even to sneak home and surprise your daughter.

In spite of the whistle being blown on the surprise, the reunion went as planned. After hugs and some tears, Holly went on to score five points in the school's loss against Rainier High School.

The Oregon National Guard didn't even get wind of the plan until late yesterday. A fellow passenger sitting next to Mike Burghardt on the flight to Portland, struck up a conversation, which led to a phone call to the Oregon National Guard's Public Affairs Office.

The media was notified late last evening, with the warning, "Don't say anything... it's a surprise." The local newspaper in Clatskanie and the high school were in on the plan.

Regardless, well-intentioned friends of the Burghardts put up the welcome home signs anyway.

"That's the beauty of small towns," said Capt. Stephen Bomar, Public Affairs Officer for the Oregon National Guard. "Everyone in town is your friend."

Indeed, when calls went out to Mr. Jeff Boffman, principal of Clatskanie High School to coordinate the media visit, he said he knew Mike and the entire Burghardt family. So did the editor of the local newspaper.

If the Burghardt family lived in a larger city like Portland, he may have been able to pull off his surprise. But the principal at his daughter's school--or the editor of the local newspaper, or the owner of the local pizza parlor, may not have known who he was, or that he was even in the Oregon National Guard.

As surprises go, yesterday's attempt may not have materialized as Mike Burghardt originally envisioned. But hopefully, he came to realize the members of his family include everyone in the small town of Clatskanie.

And that should come as no surprise to anyone.

You can read more about this story in The Daily News article here.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Social Media Manager

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tribute to Oregon Air National Guard a "step back in time"

Many readers of our blog may not remember when the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing flew F-4 Phantom jets.

The 142nd Fighter Wing transitioned to F-15 Eagles in 1989. According to Wikipedia, the unit has on static display at the Air Base, one of several surviving F-4 Phantom II's left in the world.

Thanks to Thunderbolt, those who don't remember seeing these sleek, Vietnam-era jets streaking over North Portland can now watch a pair of them, (via computer animation), as they escort an American Airlines passenger jet which has lost communications, back to Portland International Airport.

Yes, the Redhawks' tailflash is missing (see the picture of our tailflash on an F-15 to the left), but the quality of graphics and ground facility references more than make up for that!

If you would like to see Thunderbolt's other aviation videos, visit his site here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Four Oregon airmen head to Haiti to assist with relief efforts there

Early Tuesday morning, Mark Gibson did what many travelers do before boarding their flight--he kissed his wife Leah goodbye, then walked through the security checkpoint. But instead of removing his shoes for the security check, he took off his combat boots.

Lt. Mark Gibson is part of a four-man team from the 123rd Weather Flight--a tenant unit of the Oregon Air National Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing and an integral part of the Combat Operations Group.

Their team headed to Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Feb. 2, to help with the ongoing relief efforts, resulting from the Jan. 12 earthquake there. They will spend six months providing weather operations support for the Joint Task Force already in place.

"It (the mission) shows we always have to be prepared," Gibson said.

Team leader, Master Sgt. Ken Campbell said it took a while to get the necessary clearances for the team to enter Haiti, but he credited the help of key individuals who expedited the mission request--especially Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees, The Adjutant General, Oregon National Guard.

"Gen. Rees approved the request within five minutes of it landing on his desk," Campbell said. "But the true person who made this all come together was Master Sgt. Pam Pitman."

Pitman, who works full-time at the Portland Air National Guard Base, handled the logistical planning for the team, put together their orders, and obtained the necessary country clearances.

"Without her, we wouldn't be leaving today," Campbell said.

While Campbell coordinated checking in the gear boxes and luggage, Gibson waited for his boarding pass at the United Airlines ticket gate. The two other team members; Tech. Sgt. Michael Fischer and Staff Sgt. Matt Jenkins; readied their equipment and luggage. They hefted large gear boxes onto the scales, while United Airlines employees watched.

While the Task Force in Haiti is already assisting with post-earthquake relief efforts, an official weather base has yet to be set up, Campbell said. The Oregon airmen will link up with the Air Expeditionary Group, which has yet to be established.

"We will meet with the Joint Meteorological Officer already there to get our tasking," Campbell said.

Campbell said while individuals from the 123rd Weather Flight deploy all the time, this is the first time they have responded to an international disaster.

As the airmen made their way to the airport security check point, Gibson's wife Leah said even though this particular deployment came unexpectedly, she hopes her husband and the rest of the team members can help make a difference in Haiti.

"It's going to be beneficial to everyone," she said. "I hope they can get a lot accomplished."

Gibson said the hardest part of any deployment is leaving family members behind, but the sacrifices Oregon's military members endure will benefit the entire state.

"Everyone wins," Gibson said. "This will reflect well on the Oregon National Guard and the 142nd Fighter Wing."

The team is scheduled to land in Charleston, S.C. late in the evening, where they will transfer to a military C-130. They hope to be in Port-au-Prince around 4:00 a.m. Feb. 3.

Oregon Air National Guard's 123rd Weather Flight team members, from left to right: Staff Sgt. Matt Jenkins, Tech. Sgt. Michael Fischer, Master Sgt. Ken Campbell, and Lt. Mark Gibson. The team left the Portland International Airport for Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 2, to assist with ongoing relief efforts in Haiti. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office).

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office

Monday, February 1, 2010

Deployed Oregon troops visit ancient city sites in Iraq

Not everything our Oregon soldiers do is war fighting or security-related. They do, at times, have a chance to learn about foreign cultures.

Thanks to MSG Tom Hovie for this report on the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq.

Thanks to the Oregonian's Mike Francis for posting this on his Oregon at War blog.