The basics and friendly reminders about OPSEC

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Okinawa

As the U.S. entered World War II, posters depicting the phrase “Loose lips sink ships” were printed and widely circulated. It served as a staunch reminder of never knowing who may be listening to public conversations. As easy as it can be to discuss possible deployments, specific job details and even personal information, it can be detrimental to the mission and to yourself. Here are a few basic rules and reminders when it comes to operational security or OPSEC.

  1. Keep the details to a minimum. Don’t share the who, what, when, where or whys of unit movements in public or on social media platforms. As overdramatic as it may sound, sharing or posting specific troop movements can endanger members and the mission.
  2. Don’t mention deployment specifics, such as the member’s job, location or length of time. With the world of technology at our fingers, it can be tempting to try to reach out on Twitter or Facebook for others going through the same thing. While not against the rules, just be extra guarded … there could be people trolling groups and feeds looking for information.
  3. Think before you re-post or share. Be cognizant of what articles and stories you choose to pass along or forward online. Media often report on different operations and situations, some of which may not have a happy ending for others. You can always check official public affairs pages or channels to see which stories can be shared.
  4. Keep your own information private. I was once in a salon and overheard a mother discussing her children with a friend. She mentioned specific practice times, where they were, the children’s names and what school they went to. While it can seem a bit innocuous and harmless, spilling information loudly in a public area may inadvertently create a risky situation. 
  5. Watch out when posting photos. You’re proud of your service member and want to show off the latest promotion or graduation picture. Completely normal, right? You may want to do a little Photoshop action before you do. Showing your loved one in a military uniform with the branch of service, rank insignia and name tape probably isn’t the best idea.
  6. Geo-tagging can be an issue. To avoid people knowing you’re not home, your spouse isn’t home and you’re at the airport saying goodbye, resist the urge to use the check-in feature on social media.
  7. Spread the right information. We all have friends and family who may not be inside the military world who want to know all the ins and outs of what’s going on. While you shouldn’t give out specific information, explain to them the rules of OPSEC and why it’s important. It may give them a better understanding of why it’s crucial to keep things close to the chest.

While it can seem a bit overcautious at times, OPSEC is critical. While it may seem harmless, the small details can add up and provide our adversaries the information they’re looking for. Stop and reevaluate before posting and sharing any information.

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