Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
3/7/2014 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
Today it's easier than ever for Airmen to stay in touch with family, friends and co-workers. Interacting by phone, email, video chat, text messages and social media are just some of the ways to connect; but this technology makes it easier than ever for inappropriate communication to become public record.
In the last month, at least four stories centering on service member misconduct online have taken to the headlines.
In early February, Wisconsin National Guard soldiers posted distasteful military funeral photos and comments. The service member who posted the content and an involved co-worker, were removed from their duties pending an investigation. Both soldiers are currently permanently barred from service in the funeral detail.
On Feb. 15th, Stars and Stripes released a story featuring a Senior Airman tongue-kissing the prisoner of war in the POW/missing-in-action emblem.
The Airman in the photo, which is a few years old and was leaked/stolen from her Facebook page by a 'friend,' has since been promoted to staff sergeant. Upon further investigation it was determined that she was joined in at least one other photograph by another Airman in defiling Air Force heritage and POW/MIA memorabilia while a third Airman photographed them.
More recently, an Airman and a soldier posted photos to their personal social media accounts, bragging about blatant disregard for rendering respect to the American flag during retreat, and being deliberately out of uniform regulations, respectively.
Comments, images, videos and blog posts never truly die. Once posted, shared, liked or tweeted, they never completely go away.
The internet was developed in 1989 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a British physicist working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). He designed a network for CERN scientists to share information. His first internal website was born in 1991 and still lingers online.
· The first webpage was an information page on how to use the CERN internet (intranet): http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html.
· The first photograph was loaded by Berners-Lee in 1992 for a fictitious pop group of female CERN scientists: http://gizmodo.com/5924748/heres-the-first-picture-ever-posted-on-the-internet;
· The first America Online Instant Message was sent by Ted Leonsis to his wife in Jan. 1993. Leonsis later became AOL's Vice Chairman. It read, "Don't be scared...it is me. Love you and miss you." She replied, "Wow...this is so cool!";
· And, the first video loaded to YouTube, in Apr. 2005, is 18 seconds long and was posted by the site's co-founder, Jawed Karim, of his trip to the San Diego Zoo: http://youtu.be/jNQXAC9IVRw. To date, it has more than 13 million views.
The team at CERN made the World Wide Web available, free of charge, to everyone across the globe on Apr. 30, 1993. This first public page was never archived, but its instructions spawned an estimated 630 million web sites by the same date in 2013.
According to Air Force Instruction 1-1, Section 2.15.Airmen are personally responsible for what they say and post on social networking services and any other medium. Air Force standards must be observed at all times, both on and off-duty, regardless of the method of communication used.
Among other things, this AFI spells out what we, as Airmen, are and are not allowed to do, say, and wear twenty-four hours a day.
But what does that mean, and why is it so important to what we do as Airmen?
The 22 page AFI, effective in August 2012, outlines that we are required, not expected, to remain cognizant that our behavior online often affects our real-life careers.
The AFI continues, in paragraphs 2.15.1 through 2.15.7, that we should always remember to adhere to operational security standards:
Don't post or comment on classified, For Official Use Only, and other Department of Defense information (dates, locations of movements, etc.) or anything else you aren't authorized to talk about in public, including private messages and chats (2.15.1);
Military and civilian coworkers, bosses, commanders, or whomever you may have as online friends are still coworkers, bosses and commanders - what happens online can and will affect work and you should still adhere to the chain of command when addressing them (2.15.2);
You must avoid offensive and/or inappropriate behavior while online which might reflect poorly on your unit, the Air Force, the DoD and the U.S. (2.15.3);
If you comment to anything online, whether on someone else's (or your own) Twitter feed, Facebook or Instagram pages, or on a traditional blog, anything which may be seen as intending "to degrade morale, good order, and discipline of any members or units in the U.S. Armed Forces, are service-discrediting, or would degrade the trust and confidence of the public, isn't allowed (2.15.4).
Family and friends love to see your uniform photos on your feeds, but keep them out of your profile picture and don't put your rank in your online name; it's just safer that way. (2.15.5);
Remember, just because Jimmy Joe was your buddy back in grade school, that doesn't mean he's the best person to keep in touch with and with whom to share your online friendship. If he has a checkered past, that 'friendship' may cost you a favorable determination in a periodic background investigation, clearance upgrade, special duty assignment, etc. (2.15.6);
I recently had to ask a friend to remove an image of me in my college fraternity days where I was beyond intoxicated, underage, and making a fool of myself; which she'd posted to Facebook and tagged me in. In 1997, when the photo was taken, I had no clue these images may one day be shared for the world to see.
For more on the topic of social media, click on the following link to AFI 1-1, and scroll down to page 20 for more guidance on the Use of Social Media: