Closeup of a woman's hands using a smartphone

OPSEC: Can You Keep a Secret?

My son got really into my husband’s birthday this year. He wanted to buy him a present instead of just re-gifting things from his own room that he didn’t want anymore. So, I took him out and let him choose a board game that my husband would like. If we’re being real, it was a mutually beneficial gift — my son wanted to play the game with his daddy just as much as he wanted to give it to him.

The entire ride home we conspired like the sneakiest of birthday elves how we would get the game inside without my husband seeing it, and how it was critical that we keep it a secret. He seemed to understand perfectly; we even locked our lips and threw away the keys somewhere along Highway 1.

Fast forward eight minutes later: The front door hadn’t even closed behind us when I hear, “Daddy, we just got you a birthday present! It’s so fun! Bet you can’t guess what it is!” My adorable little blabbermouth did more than give away his dad’s birthday gift that day; he also gave me the perfect opening anecdote to a more serious topic: Operations Security, or OPSEC.

We’ve probably all heard it, and we likely even know the importance of protecting it, but sometimes we are so overcome with emotion (like my son) that the urge to brag or vent online clouds our OPSEC judgement. One post, couldn’t hurt, right? We can be clever with our phrasing, right? My profile is private, so I can say anything, right?

Not quite. One post might be all it takes to compromise OPSEC. Even clever phrasing can be cracked by the wrong hands. And a leak can happen via a private profile — it just takes a second for someone to take a screenshot and share your post, and even if they do it with the best of intentions (like pride or moral support), it could end up in the wrong hands.

Before you post to social media, think:

  • Does my post give any specifics about the location of my service member or his or her unit?
  • Do I name any dates (deployment, homecoming, mobilization, etc.)?
  • Am I giving away any details about what my service member is working with — meaning the size of the unit, weapons, morale, leadership, the name of the unit, etc.?
  • Am I advertising that I am home alone? (While not a direct OPSEC no-no, it compromises personal security.)
  • Am I posting any pictures that could give away any of the above?

It can be so tempting to take to Facebook and vent about the havoc of the deployment curse or type out a version of “EEEEKKKK!” he’s coming home in three days, especially when some spouses and parents do it all the time. But, when in doubt, it’s better to keep quiet.

I’ve been a military spouse for more than six years, and went through two deployments in that time. But anytime you read about my deployment experience (through a blog or my social media channels), it’s void of the details listed above.

When you really stop and think how one status update could affect the safety of your loved one, the success of a mission, your own safety at home, or even (GASP) postpone a homecoming date, it’s just not worth the risk. Social media is a great way to keep up with all the friends we make along the way in the military, but it’s no place for a secret, and — as my son showed me — neither is a six-year-old.

Kristi Stolzenberg
Written By Kristi Stolzenberg
Marine Spouse

Kristi started writing for Blog Brigade as a new Milspouse in 2008, and all of a sudden, she’s a seasoned (but not overly salty) Marine spouse.

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1 Comment

  • Laurie says:

    I truly appreciate this reminder as I count down the days till my soldier is home.
    He has been gone many more moths than originally planned and I would be lying if I said I haven’t questioned the lack of information he has given to me.
    This being my first deployment , I have LOTS of questions. This being his 12th!, he has few answers~~
    Thanks again for this helpful reminder that the slightest bit of information could put him and others in harms way.