21st CENTURY OPSEC

By BGen Andrea D. Tullos

It’s my favorite time of year. The frenzy of college football season, the pro football season is peaking, and the winter Olympics are right around the corner. Another holiday season filled with fun and stories we will laugh about for years is coming to a close. I have added motivation to get to the gym from eating way too many cookies. Many of us got to go home on leave and spend time with friends and family we don’t see often enough. For those who didn’t, the opportunity will present itself at some point, so let me remind you all of what I tell every Airman I see who has that “I’m going home” smile on their face – TELL YOUR STORY.

If you’re still in uniform, that means you. If you’re no longer in uniform, that means you too. We’re an all-volunteer force and we need to draw our recruits from every corner of the Nation. Some states have few military bases and not a lot of contact with those who serve, so every Airman is a recruiter, whether you realize it or not. Share your experiences and let those who may not know the ground truth what it’s all about. Many people would love to serve but they can’t meet our entry requirements. Let them know what we are all about anyway and tell them there are other ways they can serve, either as civil servants or as police officers, teachers, or fire fighters in their home communities.

But this year I’m offering a caveat along with my encouragement to share what our Air Force is all about. Share what we’re all about, but don’t share ALL of what we’re about. I’ve come to realize that we’ve grown up in such an open society that we’ve created habit patterns that are hard to break. We now have the ability to share everything we do, minute by minute, with anyone on the planet with a cell phone or internet access. Reality TV isn’t just on TV – it’s on our computers, phones, and all manner of portable electronic devices, and it’s not just streaming from Hollywood. Our Airmen are some of the most technically savvy Americans you can come by—in reality, many of them are telling their story all day long from wherever they serve.

The problem is that Mom and Dad and Grandpa Joe and their friends from around the block are not the only ones interested. And some of those who are interested are not interested in joining us, they’re interested in defeating us. And so we find ourselves wrestling with the age old tension that democracies face – balancing our love for all that is open about our society with the need to hold our cards exceptionally close when it comes to anything that might give our competitors an advantage. They certainly don’t make it easy on us when it comes to access, whether it’s economic, diplomatic, or military information. And information doesn’t need to be classified to be valuable. For those of you who no longer wear the uniform, nothing about operational security has changed. We all still have the same responsibility to protect essential elements of friendly information so that we never send our forces into a fair fight. You read that right – I don’t want our Airmen to ever engage in a “fair” fight. I want us to have the upper hand every time in every place. I want our adversaries to look at us and decide it’s just not worth it and go away.

So I stand by my desire for all of our Airmen to go home and tell their story – just not all of it. We all need to be good Wingmen and help our fellow Airmen understand what belongs on a Facebook page, a blog, or a YouTube video and what does not – if you wouldn’t want to show it to an adversary, than don’t show it at all.

To all our Defenders at our installations all around the world standing watch while we took the time to enjoy the blessings of our Nation, we thank you. Chief Hartz and I hope all our Defenders, past and present, had a safe and happy holiday season with many more to come. Defensor Fortis!

 

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