"There are people alive today as a direct result of what Milbloggers
do each and every day"
--Gary Cagle of
Military bloggers gathered in Arlington, VA this weekend for the 5th
Annual Milblog Conference. The "Milbloggers" came from all walks of life:
from veterans, to journalists, charity workers, even Gary Trudeau, the author of
Doonesbury. The conference kicked off on Friday night with a panel
entitled "It's a Marathon, not a Sprint", which chronicled the early days of the
milblogosphere. Led by pioneers of milblogging, such as Matt "Blackfive"
Burden, Lt. Col. Mitchell Bell (The SandGram),
Julia Hayden (SGT Mom), and Juliette Ochieng
the panelists shared anecdotes about their entry into the blogging world and the
role of blogging within their lives. For many in the audience, it was a chance
to finally meet the people behind the blogs they had been reading for years.
Moderating the panel was J.R. "Greyhawk"
Michael, a retired US Air Force weather forecaster, who promised that the next morning's
guest would be electrifying. He wasn't kidding. Saturday morning's special
guest was none other than General David H. Petraeus, who recorded a special message
for the milblog community. General Petraeus praised milbloggers for their
work providing an unfiltered glimpse of the story of America's fighting men
and women abroad—be it good, bad, or sometimes just asinine. General Petraeus
noted that although he may have learned to tweet from his kids, Army senior leaders
are not completely in the dark when it comes to modern technology. "You should
see us when we get together to play Guitar Hero—it's pretty awesome". After
a chuckle, the general conceded, "Actually, it's not".
Saturday's events began with a panel entitled "The Charitable Landscape", featuring
speakers from Soldiers' Angels,
Blue Star Families, the
the US Navy Memorial. The panel
principally focused on the role of incorporating social media in promoting awareness
for events and organizations which benefit service members and their families.
One particularly interesting vignette was offered by Keith Hensley of the Wounded
Warrior Project, who runs a program called "Soldier Ride", a rehabilitative bicycle
ride for injured service members. Hensley recalled spreading word of a bicycle
ride over Twitter, only to to find it re-tweeted by none other than Lance Armstrong,
resulting in a massive turnout and incredible support. Yet another example
of super-empowerment through the new media.
The afternoon featured speakers ranging from Michael Yon and Major General David
Hogg, currently the Deputy Commanding General of Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan,
both of whom joined live from Afghanistan. Abraham Sofaer of the Hoover Institute
also dropped by, and his book "The
Best Defense? Legitimacy and Preventive Force" was included in the official
conference goodie bag. The crowd was also moved by a presentation from
Major Norman T. Hatch, a combat cameraman who served at Tarawa and Iwo Jima,
who reflected on his experience filming what would ultimately become "The
Marines of Tarawa".
However, it was a panel called "The View from the Top", which focused on the
views of senior military leaders on social media, that proved the most memorable.
Featuring Admiral J.C. Harvey (Commander of US Fleet Forces Command and a contributor
to the US Naval Institute Blog), Colonel Gregory
Breazile (Director of Communication for NATO Training
Price Floyd (Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs),
Jamie McIntyre (currently at Military.com's editorial team), the panel highlighted
senior leaders' embracing of social media, and its role in facilitating communication
between senior leaders and service members at the lowest levels. The panel
was particularly notable, as Admiral J.C. Harvey singled out of Small Wars Journal
for its high standards of content, praising both the authors and the commenters.
Jamie McIntyre and Price Floyd also addressed the issue of the infamous "Collateral
Murder" video, both noting that the best analysis of the video came not from the
mainstream media, nor from the Pentagon, but rather, through milbloggers who offered
a more balanced, in-depth look at the incident. Floyd also gave MountainRunner
high marks for his coverage
of the story. Interestingly, after the panel,
Commander Salamander (of the US
Naval Institute) spoke off-line with McIntyre, mentioning that the BBC had actually
contacted a number of military bloggers asking for information on the incident,
as the BBC couldn't find an American public affairs officer —to comment on
The conference concluded with "Legislation, Military-Style", featuring Colin
Clarke of DODBuzz, Brandon Friedman (Director
of New New Media at the Department of Veterans' Affairs),
and Winslow Wheeler, of the Center for Defense Information.
Representatives from a number of charities attended the event, including the
Pinups for Vets and
Dozens of blogers liveblogged the two-day event at
For more (list is ever-growing), see:
Blogging Conference (Anne's Spot)