WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Sailors, family members and Navy commands are increasingly relying on social and emerging media to stay connected with those in their personal and professional lives.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) (SS/SW) Rick D. West is chief among them.
More than 13,000 people from around the world have signed up to follow West on his Facebook page. The vast majority are Sailors, Navy family members and military supporters. It is important that the Navy family remain vigilant in not sharing potentially sensitive or secure information by any non-secure means - to include letters, email, telephone conversations or social media.
West has seen reports of potential threats to the Navy and said that while the country remains at war, clearly there are those who would want to glean information from anywhere they can get it to use against the Navy and the nation.
"What we say and where we say it has never been more important," said West. "Operational Security [OPSEC] has to be stressed at every level and I'm going to make sure our Sailors understand that very clearly."
West said that he's consistently surprised at how effective social media has become in terms of getting quality information to the fleet. He's been particularly aggressive in using Facebook and Twitter to make Sailors and families aware of Navy and DoD initiatives such as wounded warrior care, the Post 9/11 GI Bill and sexual assault prevention.
There are threats, though, that he believes are real and potentially very dangerous. "Anyone who thinks our enemies don't monitor what our Sailors, families and commands are doing via the Internet and social media had better open their eyes," said West. "These sites are great for networking, getting the word out and talking about some of our most important family readiness issues, but our Sailors and their loved ones have to be careful with what they say and what they reveal about themselves, their familes or their commands."
West said the Navy family needs to avoid discussing information about their units, such as location, schedules and specific missions or assets.
"That's standard OPSEC," said West. "But we're not talking about 'loose lips sinking ships' anymore, it's more than that. Our enemies are advanced and as technologically savvy as they've ever been. They're looking for personal information about our Sailors, our families and our day-to-day activities as well as ways to turn that information into maritime threats."
Sailors are getting it, said West. He said he bases that opinion on the feedback he receives at all hands calls and via social media, itself.
"If you have to wonder whether what you're about to type could be used against you or your shipmates and your family, you probably shouldn't say it," West said.
Information on the appropriate use of social media within the Navy is available at http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/socialmedia.html. DoD's social media hub has created videos and articles on the best practices for service members and their families when using social networking sites. These can be found at http://socialmedia.defense.gov. Likewise a short presentation by Navy Public Affairs on privacy and safety of personnel participating on line can be found at http://www.slideshare.net/USNavySocialMedia/us-navy-safe-and-effective-use-of-social-media. More information regarding OPSEC can be obtained by Navy command personnel at https://iweb.spawar.navy.mil/depts/d017/.
For more news from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, visit www.navy.mil/local/mcpon/.