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Cultural divides, nay, gulfs, and future, bridges to

A couple of days ago, I posted a memo being circulated amongst AFROTC cadets - it was a simple memo, just telling the cadets to think before they post, especially if what they're posting is easily linked to the Air Force.  No harm, no foul, though some of you seemed to think there was.

To me, the interesting bit was the cultural mindset of the first paragraph, and how that was indicative of some of the challenges the services face as they come to grips with this whole Internet thingy.  And many of the senior leaders really do think of it as "that Internet thingy" while the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines they lead are virtually cyborgs, they're so connected.

Yesterday, the Chief of Army Public Affairs, Major General Kevin Bergner, and his oh-so-able deputy assistant underling for New Media, Lindy Kyzer, were at Fort Leavenworth where MG Bergner addressed a packed room of soon-to-assume-command Lieutenant Colonels attending the Pre-Command Course.  MG Bergner's presentation was an over-lunch optional seminar, but the room was full.  Enough so that I decided to not enter and add to the heat load, not being of the target audience, and my presence might have been an inhibitor, anyway.  After all, I *am* media, right?  .

Among the topics and apparently, from what Lindy told me afterward, the bulk of the discussion, centered around social and new media, the distinctions between which many of the audience were unaware of.  It's all "that Internet thingy."  Mind you - these people really *are* among the best and the brightest, and I mean that in a very positive sense, but the cultural gulf, while smaller than an ocean, is still wider than a good running broad jump can cross.

I came in after the seminar was over and just listened to Lindy taking questions from some very earnest (all soon-to-be battalion level commanders are very earnest) - and two of the three admitted (in paraphrase), "I don't do this Internet thing, but I guess I've got to learn about it because my soldiers sure do, and I want to be able to both monitor and exploit it - where do I go to get help?"  And Lindy busily rattled off websites, regulations, and her email address.

The Commander of the Combined Arms Center, LTG Caldwell has a "Cardinal Richelieu" of strategic communications, Duncan Boothby, who was there, along with Anton Menning, a former Leavenworth Times journalist who was hired to be the New Media guy for CAC Stratcomms.  It's his job to keep an eye on folks like us.  [Waving vigorously, "Hi, Anton!]  LTG Caldwell's embrace of new media while in Iraq and his leveraging his position as the Chief Trainer and Doctrine Developer of the Army has been a key enabler of the Army training leaders from NCOs and up on the strategic impact of media and how to engage and exploit the venue. 

I introduced myself to MG Bergner as "the guy who asked the question about the blues-as-greens" at last fall's conference in Las Vegas, and his face lit up and he said "I mentioned that in the presentation, how the first question put to me by you guys was about the uniform change."   MG Bergner's a sharp fellow - he still didn't give me any juicy bits (much less a personal opinion)  about the whole uniform thing.  He just gave me a Cheshire cat smile when I poked a teeny bit. 

So, I'm telling you this because it's indicative of how serious the Army is taking the whole new media/social media phenomenon, and when I observed to MG Bergner my usual schtick regarding  senior public affairs types that "The first thing we do is fire all the Colonels" his response was perfect: "Well, since I can't do that, what I have to do is educate them.  And that's why I'm here."

And I do think it's important to note that the Army Chief of Public Affairs spends time and travel dollars to come to speak to the future senior leaders of the Army about New Media and Social Media - and not as a threats and warnings brief (though I'm sure there is some of that) but to educate them on what it is, and how to monitor and even exploit it, all without breaking rules, regs, and the law.

Lindy and I talked about how they're learning to exploit (and yes, that's an accurate term) us as bloggers.   The traditional paradigm was to put out the press releases and hope the Old Media would bite on 'em.  And much was the rejoicing when you scored something in a major outlet.  But the PA types have figured out that a lot of Old Media types are going to the blogs to find their story ideas, and if Public Affairs can catch *our* attention, they oft-times will catch Old Media's attention for stories that Old Media was ignoring before.

The worm has turned.   Most of us bloggers understand we *need* the old media, now the old media is finding that they need us.  We're all symbiotes now.

That means we're succeeding at what *I* set out to do, six years ago.  Give context and fact-checking to the stories that are told in the Old Media, in ways Old Media couldn't or wouldn't, and tell the stories untold - and have fun doing it.  Oh, and, yes, skewer the political class and Gilbert-and-Sullivan general officers.

I think we're getting there campers.  At least with the Army and Marine Corps.  The Navy is still a bit confused, and the Air Force is still flying so high over the battlefield, they really don't yet see what's going on.  Not that we don't have a ways to go ourselves as media mavens, but for a view into the Air Force, see recently retired zoomie Greyhawk of Mudville Gazette's comment below, which he left on the original post I linked above.


A couple observations -

1. The USAF in general: struggling mightily to come to grips with this series of tubes thingy. It's likely no one in this Det ever posted anything inappropriate anywhere, at least not where the admin discovered it. However, some USAF kidz have gained some senior attention by posting facebook/myspace photos of the "tossing cookies in the middle of the street on all fours with clothes half off" variety (and other things of which their dear mothers might not approve) along with acknowledgement that they are proud wearers of the ABU. There are suddenly a bazillion similarly worded documents floating up and down various chains of command, making the suspicious sort of person wonder if some higher level being waved his hand a certain way in a staff meeting and achieved a result. There's also a cohesive USAF "policy" now published and about to hit the streets. Interestingly, it's not a Reg (or as the USAF now calls them, "AFI") or a manual or anything else, just "guidance". I saw a copy on a recent trip to the Pentagon, he said, by way of transiting to point number

2. "The generation thing": On that trip a group of us - at least one of whom proudly held the Argghhh banner high - were entertained by the various skillz of department/branch level PAOs - many of whom acknowledged the "generation gap between you bloggers and us stodgy old folks on high who must be forgiven for moving in seeming slow motion, being of Precambrian mind set and arthritic knees and all..." Not sure how many others in our bright young whippersnapper crowd noticed, but I didn't need to whip out my slide rule to calculate that our median, mean, average (take your pick) age exceeded that of our hosts by a significant margin (and that's even with Maggie and Mrs G keeping our numbers low...). They imagined "bloggers" as a bunch of 20-somethings, prepared remarks accordingly, and the evidence before their eyes was insufficient to get them to adjust their comments on the fly.
 
Hi ho!  Hi ho!  It's off to blog we go! 

Building bridges between here and future, and we were a not insignificant part of the "forcing function" that got the services and combatant commands to stick their necks out.  That and the need to get their message out during a war.

19 Comments

Interesting read and reminds me of a comment made by a fellow panel member at a recent conference reminiscing about using the first Commodore PET when he was in 6th grade. My remark: "when I got to 6th grade I remember how cool it was to get to use an INK pen and SPIRAL notebook. I used to only get to use a Big Chief tablet and #2 pencil." Oh yeah, I'm the "New Media" guy, heh, heh, heh.
 
I promise I only hit the submit button once. HONEST! ... dastardly gnomes ...
 
Hah!  Like all media types, you just like seeing your name on the screen...
 
Poor Jack, caught by the Castle Echo™.  Don't feel bad, it bites everyone periodically to let us know it's still around.  *grin*
 
Yes, yes, they are getting serious out at Fort LEavenworth......but did Lindy make you cookies?
 
There's also the issue of the US military having to expand into job areas that are supposed to be handled by our "free press".  And, our military, all too often, has to work over time in efforts to counter misinformation, disinformation, lies, and outright bullcrap from our "free press".
 
I truly believe the Army has turned the corner with social media. A year ago, the Combined Arms Center was virtually the only military organization hosting a blog on a .mil URL. Today, OCPA has come around, 10th Mountain is out there and various brigades across a spectrum of divisions are hosting their own blogs. In addition, GEN Dempsey, TRADOC commander, pushed out three blogs in the last week. Heck, even JFCOM is engaging. As with any new endeavor, there will be growing pains, but senior leaders are embracing a "culture of engagement." Let's all see how much progress we can make in the future!
 
The previous was a fully-paid ad by CAC Stratcomm...  ;^ )

You're preaching to the choir here, Anton.  They guys you need to convince are the ones you were talking to yesterday.
 
Grimmy - part of the problem the press is having is that too much of their stuff is free, and fewer people are willing to pay them to provide it...
 
I got my first Borg/Net implant when I bought my first Bluetooth.  Scared the carp out of younger and not-so-connected friends of ours, and impressed the very sox off still younger and very connected friend who all wanted to check out the bright and shiny thing!  I still can't do anything about the 'muttering to oneself' perception but I suspect that will change.  Or not.
 
No, you guys annoy me because it's harder to pick out the crazies in the crowd.  Usetabe the guy declaiming loudly to thin air was a good choice.

Now he might be your banker, broker, or accountant.

Very annoying!
 
The first time I saw one of them contraptions, my thought was: What the helk kindda evil root is growing out of that guy's ear?

Nine years after the fact, and I still think is flat-out un-natural.
 
I find people don't pay as much attention to me now as they did when I didn't have the Bluetooth device. 
 
*rapping gravel*

Point of order please.

I asked a question.

*mumbles - I thought there were rulez around this place....mumble....hell...mumble handbasket...going back to Twitter where I have Sailors to hang on my every word...mumble*

*Princess Crabby sweeps out of the room on her high horse!*
 
No, Maggie.  Lindy didn't make us cookies.  But in her defense, she swung in early in the morning and left that afternoon.

If she ever comes here and spends the night, if she doesn't save taxpayer dollars by spending the night at Castle Argghhh!, well, we'll be... annoyed.

 
Oh, and Maggie?  Mebbe you need a Bluetooth gizmo.  Seems to have worked for Jack - though I will mock him mercilessly next time I see him.
 
I use the Bluetooth when I am away from the three youngest CLUs.  And if I *have* to be in a public place that Frowns On Tech Fashion Accessories and Access, I am well-mannered enough to turn off the device and the phone and wait until I get to the car before I check in.  While the Bluetooth qualifies as a hands-free device, I won't use it while in traffic.  My personal peeve is someone on their cell, holding their phone up to their ear while reading and driving...or the idiots who like to text while driving...Bluetooth maybe weird but it is safer to use.
 
Why would I get a BlueTooth?  Jack says people are paying less attention to him.  You must have bumped your head if you think I would do anything that made people pay LESS attention to me!
 
Um, never mind.  I misread Jack's comment.