LETTERS FROM HOME AND OPSEC
Amid recent events, I feel that I have a relevant perspective to share. I didn’t intend to be so military focused in my posts, I throw them in every-now-and-then depending on my mood. But I feel the need to share my personal experience, but mostly to calm people down. The media try to slant things in a way that perpetuates a certain agenda (links in the blog), and I’m here to give you a real look into our military experience. This blog will cover two things: 1. How communications have changed in a fairly short time. 2. How much OPSEC (or Operational Security) has changed in a very short time as well.
CHANGES IN COMMUNICATIONS
Let’s start with communications. In just a decade things have changed drastically in how we communicated with our loved ones over seas. When I first met my husband I wasn’t sure that he would have access to phones or internet to email me. With him, he carried my phone number and email, and he gave me his address to send care packages…because that’s what I told him I would do. (I told him before he deployed the first time we were “together” that I wasn’t interested in a relationship with a Soldier but that I would send him letters and care packages.)
As soon as he left, I began writing him letters…I believe a letter a day, most days. Within the first week he called me. This let me know he had access to phones. So that first deployment we spent, emailing, hand-writing letters, and calling when he was able to do so. This went on for almost all the deployments he had until he left 1st Ranger Battalion in August 2008. While smart phones had come on the scene, we still didn’t have them. There had been times in the very beginning of my move to Savannah that we didn’t have internet, so I would have to go to the library to gain access to my email account.
As frustrating as a deployment can be, AT LEAST we had decent access to each other. By the time we got to a deployment within the regular Army, he was carrying his iPad with him and we were able to Facetime. In a matter of a few years things had changed drastically. Not only had the technology changed, but he was no longer with a Special Operations unit. So communications were much more open between us.
Now I get to today…
THE MILITARY AND MEDIA OF TODAY
Three things really inspired me to write this particular blog: 1. An article run by ArmyTimes saying that cell phones were a no-go for this recent deployment of troops. 2. An article run by our local WJCL 22 News station on Facebook about a soldier’s wife who was “shocked” that her Soldier was deployed 3. Last, a couple of articles running around (which I won’t link out of pure purpose) that Rangers had been deployed in light of recent events.
Let’s break this down…
WE KNEW VERY LITTLE ABOUT ANYTHING
First, my husband’s background is in Special Operations. When my husband was in 1st Ranger Battalion, we were not allowed to know when they were leaving or when they were coming home. We found out they were coming home usually in a 24 hour window, and the next call we got was from our Ranger telling us to pick them up. (From his cell phone that he had to leave in the rear because they weren’t allowed to take them on deployments.)(No fanfare for the later deployments.) Even in the beginning, we’d get broad windows for return, and we would just hope that we would be off or could get off from work…but we couldn’t tell our boss that’s why we needed off…OPSEC.
WHEN OPSEC WAS A THING
OPSEC stands for Operational Security. I know in this day-and-time we think that we need to know everything about our troops comings and goings…but the truth is, for their safety, we do not. Unlike previous administrations, it’s horrible to share when they’re moving, where they’re moving, and what they’re doing. Then there was the time the SEAL killed Bin Laden…again, there are a lot of things we just don’t need to talk about. That’s what it means to be a silent professional. There are still things I’m sure my husband won’t talk about until it has been de-classified, but I don’t know, because he didn’t discuss the things he did. (So honestly, political party aside, don’t get upset when our president doesn’t project our movements about the globe.)
My fellow Ranger wives can share, we usually didn’t even know exactly where they were at any given time. To have known could have compromised their safety and the mission at hand. I know Navy wives who are still living this…sending their loved one out to sea (under the sea). They literally have no idea where they are at any given time. (On a different note, I couldn’t even imagine living in a submarine. So they’re amazing.)
LETTERS FROM HOME…WE HAD TO FOLLOW OPSEC
Not only were their comings and goings fairly secret, but once they arrived in theatre, we weren’t allowed to talk about ANYTHING that could possibly disclose where they were. I wasn’t allowed to ask my husband what time it was where he was, if had been sleeping, what he had been doing…I mean, if he went to they gym he’d tell me…super small talk, but it was mostly me talking about my day and what I was doing.
This went for letters as well. At any given time someone could read one of letters…at least this is what we were told. So we didn’t disclose dates or locations through email or letters either. It’s just how we did. I know it’s hard for people to keep their mouths shut, but really, if you can’t, then Special Operations probably isn’t the right fit. I’ve watched OPSEC slip over the years, and I can’t help but shake my head. Don’t you think it’s worth keeping the men who keep us safe, safe?? I do. (I get we live in a share-crazy society, but there are some things that need to remain secret.)
This is why they aren’t able to bring cell phones or other electronic devices. It’s to keep the troops and their mission SAFE! So don’t be upset for them. Be happy that the highest measures have been put in place to keep them safe.
TIME TO BE TOUGH
Second, the woman who was shocked that her husband deployed. I’m not sure why anyone who is in a unit like that would be shocked. We were always aware that deployments could happen at any time, and there was a small window in which they would have to leave. I can certainly understand disappointment, sadness, and grief, but I feel like this was used to make people feel sorry for soldiers and their families. While we appreciate support, let me tell you, we do not need (nor do most of us want) pity. Not even a little. As an Army (Ranger) wife, we are strong, resilient, determined, and capable. (These words describe so many women I know.)…
I know a woman who hours after delivering their first child send her husband off to war. I’ve seen fellow wives bury their husbands. I’ve seen husband miss the birth of not one, but multiple children due to deployments. Those people are the real heroes…and they do it without complaint. I’ve also celebrated anniversaries and birthdays without my husband. It’s just the name of the game.
NONE OF THIS IS EASY
None of the characteristics listed above are easy to be. You just become them through circumstances and by the Grace of God! That’s it. It just sounds like she’s “whining”( for lack of a better word) about everything every single other spouse goes through when their loved one deploys. Yeah, it’s hard, but you suck it up and drive on. And if you think I’m being harsh, I’m sorry, but I don’t have a lot of patience with whining or complaining. It’s tough for everyone. (See my examples above.) Letters from home and OPSEC got us all through the deployments just fine.
Finally, as far as putting it out there that Rangers are deployed…they’re always deployed, but to tell where they’re going and what mission they’re in support of is just wrong. Let’s keep our soldiers safe…I could probably spend all day sharing our experiences and what it’s been like and of course opinions, but I’m leaving you here.
Until next time…