It just slipped out, “My husband is deployed.” At the bank, at the commissary and at the hair dresser. Even at museums, especially those that offered military discounts.
Everyone seemed so kind and considerate. I, lonely military spouse, desperately wanted someone to commiserate with me. What I never thought that I could be violating OPSEC and PERSEC as a military spouse.
A thousand times a day, you or someone you love probably breaks operational security (OPSEC) or personal security (PERSEC). By keeping information secure, it keeps our brave service members and military families safe. There are sneaky ways that everyone breaks it, and here are just a few.
Whether it’s “Half of My Heart is Deployed To…,” a stick figure family or even a base affiliated sticker, car decals share a lot of info about your family.
Half of My Heart’s let everyone know that your spouse is a) military, b) most likely gone and c) where he probably is.
Stick figure families, especially if you choose ones that show jobs and ages, share similar info. Your spouse is military, which means s/he might be gone a lot. Outsiders can tell the number and approximate ages of your children. And you also disclose to strangers about your pet situation: number and kind.
Even base affiliated stickers, for sports teams or units, share a lot of stuff. Base affiliations can even help people follow you home!
Flat Daddy and Mommy
Want to let someone know that your spouse is missing? Bring a cardboard cutout of that person with you everywhere. Yeah, it could just be a fun college kid trying to loop an absent friend in on the fun.
But when you travel with toddlers and teens who look like you, chances are you might be a military spouse with a service member deployed.
When you post those pictures all over social media, you are sharing with the whole world that someone is missing from your home, potentially leaving you vulnerable! This allow strangers to make connections to military units based on the locations and dates of your posts.
I’m totally guilty of this one: countdowns and count-ups. When my husband was gone for a year, I had the monthly count-up going on Facebook. I let everyone know with a simple number how much time was left before homecoming.
It’s that easy. Yes, it might seem like only people “in the know” would get it. But then the comments start.
“Stay strong, almost there!”
“Thank you both for your service”
“Do you have his deployment address?”
Just like that, everyone knew that my husband has either been gone for six months or will come home in six months. I was alone in my home, and a quick scan of my profile will revealed lots of other personal details: kids, pets, weapons and location.
Don’t make the same mistake. Lock that down, yesterday.
Facebook and Instagram: great for sharing pics with family and friends. You can caption each image. Or tag them with fun #hashtags. Or even tag the people you are with.
Imagine all the info a person can get from this: #deploymentdate with my #camplejeunemommas #twodown #sixtogo #proudUSMCwife of a #1/2Timberwolf!
Boom: potential terrorists or thieves now have a lot of info. You are a military spouse with kids in Jacksonville, NC. Your spouse is with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines. They’ll be gone for six more months. Now they can target you AND your spouse’s unit. Yikes.
As a special bonus, the picture can now be seen on the profile of every person you tagged, allowing all their friends can see it too. And if one person comments on it, suddenly all of THEIR friends can see it. Woah…nothing is private.
Homecoming is great! We’re all super excited and stuff. You want to share the news with the folks back home, officially.
Maybe you have not so great news to pass along, but your supporters far away might want to know.
Before you call a newspaper or tv or radio station, hit pause.
Officially, all info about individual personnel, units, ships, homecomings and other news related to the military needs to come from Public Affairs. This office, and this office alone, has the power to funnel info to the media. Families and spouses who share info could unwittingly pass along troop locations, homecoming days or other classified info.
Then your article or news segment is spread on Facebook, which is essentially an information free-for-all. Bad things can happen when you share too much without PAO involved.
This was me all of the time: oversharing details of my life to perfect strangers. Suddenly the bank teller, and everyone within earshot, knew my husband was deployed. Add in the proximity to base, with my base access decal and USMC license plate decal, and it would have been easy to follow me home.
Or, if the conversation continued, anyone within listening distance could have found out my spouse’s unit and OCONUS location. Giving them lots of options for re-sharing that info to potential baddies.
And as our military homecoming crept closer, I was practically shouting from the rooftops (and social media) all about when and where my guy was coming home. Then my posts were getting liked and commented on by friends and family, sharing my info with their networks.
Luckily, nothing happened. This time.
Now I’ve wised up, especially on social media and in public. I share my military spouse status ONLY when required, and never elaborate about my spouse’s location. Almost nothing on my Facebook profile reflect my true location and pictures of him in uniform are practically banished.
What do you do to maintain OPSEC / PERSEC? What are your sneaky slip-ups?
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger, and freelance writer/editor. She is published on Homefront United Network, National Military Family Association, NextGen MilSpouse and the Education Tourist. Meg currently writes about all things education at MilKids Education Consulting.
Want more posts on military life?
- 12 Must-Know Etiquette Rules for Military Spouses
- I’m Terrible at Being a Military Spouse
- 10 Things Military Spouses Won’t Tell You About Deployment
- 9 Relationship Truths Only a Modern Military Spouse Will Understand