Wait. Don’t answer that question. But answer me this: What do you think of the following memorandum sent to media today by the public affairs office of the Arkansas National Guard? The Ark. Times has not published any information about troop deployments so the reference to unauthorized information release does not apply to us. Still, the statement struck me funny. When hundreds of troops are in motion, it’s not likely to be a secret. And the Guard isn’t likely to punish media by withholding information. It’s in the Guard’s interest that departures and returns receive the sympathetic news treatment they customarily receive.
To date, I’m unaware of any war protests, much less terrorist strikes, at departures or arrivals of Arkansas troops, though some have been announced ahead of time. But if operational security truly is a priority, isn’t it compromised by even off-the-record release? As a side note, I have heard quite a few anti-war statements from Iraqi veterans and their family members, committed to the duty though they are.
What do you think? Here’s the statement from Capt. Chris Heathscott:
It has been brought to my attention that some media outlets in the state have chosen to announce the troop movement timelines of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team that went out from this office as invitation only – not for release. If this is true, it is a clear violation of Operational Security that places our Soldiers’ safety at risk. Soldiers and their Families will share that information, but generally they notify a targeted audience.
However, when the media publishes that information, the audience is no longer targeted and it opens us up the opportunity for someone to make an extreme statement against either the war in Iraq or America in general. Any media outlet found in violation of Operational Security by releasing those timelines will be removed from our distribution list for all future releases.
In the event this continues, the notification of any such troop movements, to include departures and returns, will no longer be announced by the Arkansas National Guard. The Safety of our Soldiers comes FIRST. The demand for information by the media and the communities they cover is a distant second.
Thank you all for you amazing support of our troops, but please remember that as deploying Soldiers, they are in harms way already even though they are still in the States.
Thanks again and God Bless.
UPDATE: Capt. Heathscott has responded to my note on the matter.
Fortunately for our Soldiers, Operational Security is not up for discussion. You call it paranoia today, but let a bus get targeted and Soldiers either killed or wounded and the press will point fingers in an attempt to place blame on someone for not taking the steps to ensure their security. This is not paranoia, Sir, it is a reality of war and has been with every conflict our Nation has been in. This is the policy of the Department of Defense.
There appear to have been no bus bombings at troop departures all across Arkansas today.