MilBlog Conference 2010

"There are people alive today as a direct result of what Milbloggers

do each and every day"

--Gary Cagle of

Team Rubicon.

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

(Baldilocks),

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

Wounded Warrior Project, and

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

Mission-Afghanistan),

Price Floyd (Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs),

and

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 video.  

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

USO,

Vets for Vets,

Team Rubicon,

You Served,

Pinups for Vets and

Homes for our Troops.  

Dozens of blogers liveblogged the two-day event at

Twitter and

Facebook.

For more (list is ever-growing), see:

Military

Blogging Conference (Anne's Spot)

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Thanks for including my blog post. My new job will focus on educational resources and connecting people who help military families.

This conference was a great introduction to the military and to those who care about the military, veterans, and military families.