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Posts Tagged ‘Blackfive’

First and foremost, I would like to thank all those men and women who have served or are currently serving in the military. We would remiss not to also acknowledge the service of the Intelligence Community. It was not too long ago that the CIA put its 90th star on its Memorial Wall in honor of fellow Floridian Gregg Wenzel who died in the line of duty in Kenya. As a civilian, I do not feel like I have much to add to these tributes besides restate the moving sentiment of veterans like this one, which honors each and every member of the military, from the good folks at Blackfive.

My own small tribute has been not on this blog but in the classroom with my course “Narratives of War, 1865-Present.” Although the goal of the course is to expose students to a wide range of literature and film about war as well as issues confronting warfighters and their families, there has been an unexpected and perhaps greater significance to my class.  As the semester progresses, a growing number of students who have family or loved ones in the military have told me that the works we have read have given them an insight into their experiences and sacrifices. It is incredibly rewarding to hear a student remark that a book or film has given him or her a greater understanding of their father, mother, brother, sister, or other loved one.

Even then, it is hard not to feel somehow inadequate in the face of so many–including members of my own family–who have given so much in service of the United States of America.  For now, this is all I have to offer.

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On September 20th, Las Vegas will host the 2008 Milblogging Conference at the Blog World Expo. A number of notable bloggers will be in attendance including the folks from Blackfive. So far, three panels have been announced:

Are MilBlogs Still Relevant? In the wake of a successful military surge in Iraq, waning media attention and an election year, are MilBlogs as relevant to the national conversation on war as they once were?

MilBlogging as a Community. A fascinating look at how the milblogging community was built, what it’s achieved and how deep and wide its reach has become. We’ll explore how milblogging gives a voice to supporters, parents and spouses of service members, and how that voice is effectively used to support an entire military community.

The New Cadre of War Reporters. Reporting from the Green Zone is not an option for this gritty band of milbloggers. Today’s technology enables milbloggers and embedded reporters to report directly from the battlefield. We’ll talk with some of these milbloggers about their experiences in the combat zone.

As someone interested in the milblogging phenomenon, I am going to try to make it this year–time and money permiting.

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In his recent article “Blogs of War,” Christopher Garland interviews notable U. S. military bloggers Colby Buzzell and Matthew Burden. Although their perspectives are very different, both are staunch advocates for uncensored blogging from the battlefield. Buzzell, a specialist in a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, attracted international attention with his raw experiences of Iraq in “My War,” which became a lightning rod in the debate over military censorship. Burden, a former military intelligence officer, created “Blackfive” after becoming frustrated by the the gap between traditional news media and the lived experiences of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Garland writes, military bloggers might enjoy greater freedom thanks to some prominent endorsements:

[General David Petraeus] also recognised the new means in which information is delivered from the battlefield to the civilian world. “Milbloggers (military bloggers) have become increasingly important, of course, given the enormous growth in individuals who get their news online in the virtual world instead of through newspapers and television.” Petraeus added his appreciation to bloggers “for (blogging) in ways that do not violate legitimate operational security guidelines”. Despite pushing for the freedom of speech, the sharing of sensitive material continues to be the US Army’s primary concern.

Across the political divide, noted Iraq War critic Senator Ted Kennedy has also voiced opposition to the screening of soldier blogs by Army officials. After the military’s screening regulations on email communication, Senator Kennedy sent a letter to the acting secretary of the US Army, Peter Geren, asking him to reconsider the army’s position on military blogs. Kennedy worries that restrictions on blogging will cause even further disconnection between the American public and the troops serving abroad. “Soldiers, their families, and the public who read blogs and use other public forums will lose valuable insights into the lives of our soldiers if the policy continues to be enforced,” he wrote. “This loss is particularly troubling, since it comes at a time when there is a deep need for Americans to connect with their soldiers.”

As Buzzell and Burden argue, military blogging goes a long way to overcome the perceived distance between the home front and the front lines. Not only does the war become more “real” for the general public but also soldiers’ experiences are less likely to be hijacked by various agendas. However, it will be interesting to see how the political and military machines co-opt the “Web 2.0” phenomenon for their own purposes. Senator Kennedy and General Petraeus’s endorsement of blogging shows us that this phenomenon is already underway.

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