There have been what seems like a million and one articles and blog posts floating around out there about OPSEC. And yet…I still see folks breaking some super basic rules every single day on Facebook and Instagram.

You guys. We need to have a serious talk about OPSEC and what it means for you (military spouse or significant other) and your families.

Read this OPSEC Info Before You Post Anything Online

Before you run screaming or click away from yet another OPSEC post, don’t. Just stick with me for a bit because this is important.

Keeping certain things offline is super important for the safety and well being of our loved ones. When you don’t post about certain things online, you’ll also be protecting your family at home.

OPSEC, or operation security, is all about troop movements of any kind, locations, and mission specifics.

Yes, all troop movements and locations and missions and dates are included in things you shouldn’t be discussing on social media.

Social Media is Basically an Open Book

You say you’ve locked down your account, and that might be true, but nothing ever dies online and there is always a way in somehow.

That sweet “last kiss” picture that you have as your profile picture is publicly viewable. So is the holiday card-type image you created showing your spouse in Afghanistan and you back at home.

Things you’ve liked, shared, or commented on might also be visible to others, too. You might want to double check your sharing settings ASAP.

Plus, just because your account is locked down doesn’t mean that your friends’ accounts are secured. All their pictures might be totally visible. Yup, even the ones that you’re tagged in, that are GPS tagged to your on-base house. Even the ones that talk about “half your heart” being deployed or the deployment cycle or missing someone at boot camp.

You can totally try to keep quiet. But it doesn’t mean it will always work.

Cute Posts Have Real Impacts

So you’ve got a fun meme about long distance relationship that you’re just dying to post on Insta. Or a snarky status to share on Facebook about Deployment Murphy.

So you post it, and tag three of your battle buddies. You put a little graphic on there with the unit logo or made a casual mention about your base. Maybe you tacked on a sweet little nod to how much longer he’ll be gone or when she’s coming back. The comments include requests for his location or mailing address, and you respond right there.

Congrats! You just let the world know a few possibly dangerous things:

  1. You’re at home and alone
  2. Your friends are at home, also alone
  3. You let anyone who can view the post (everyone you tagged, their connections, commenters) know exactly where your spouse is located
  4. Everyone who can view your post, and all their connections, possibly know when and where your spouse is coming home

Let’s walk through why these things are huge OPSEC no-nos.

Home Alone

Sharing your location (thanks, geotagging!) and the fact that your spouse is gone can open a huge scary can of worms. Depending on the security of your profiles, your reach might be limited. But let’s pretend, for argument’s sake, that you have medium security settings.

Medium security means that some of your photos and posts are likely visible to just about anyone.

Sharing your spouse or partner’s absence from the home is a great way to announce yourself as a potential target for theft and burglary. Yes, even if you have a giant gun safe. Even if you have big scary dogs.

I know it seems totally innocent and we all need a place to vent. But Facebook and Instagram are not ideal for sharing this type of info.

Maybe it’s because I read a lot of true crime and watch a ton of Law & Order-type shows, but I will do anything possible to minimize the risk to me and mine when my spouse is gone. For me, that means keeping things off of Facebook and double locking my doors.

Troop Locations

This was a lot more relevant when I was a brand new military spouse in 2009, back when there was a much larger troop involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though we’ve drawn down some, there are still military personnel deployed around the globe.

Every time you share something about Forward Base Suchandsuch or USS Shippy McShip’s next port call, you open up troops to potential risk.

Yes, deployments are much more public and talked about nowadays. Newsmedia is often invited to attend homecomings, deployments and other unit functions. Press releases from units about deployment operations happen, too.

The difference is that these are official messages, carefully coordinated between the unit’s command team and the public affairs shop. They are strategically released by the command to prevent troops from being placed in danger.

Your unofficial Facebook post about “24 hours to homecoming at Camp Lejeune, OooRah Marines 2/3!”lets everyone know which unit is moving, where and when.

Whole units have had homecomings delayed for less.

Things to Keep Offline

Somethings should just always stay offline. Even in “secret” or “closed” groups. Ideally, you’d never put this info in writing and ask your friends or family to stay quiet, too.

Keep dates offline. This includes deployments, TDY, reporting to Basic, whatever. Just keep it quiet. If you feel like you need to ask for support or advice (or vent), stick to vague terms like “this spring” or “down the road.”

All details about homecoming and deployments. It’s honestly just safer this way. If the word comes from the command, feel free to share that.

Locations of all types, like where your spouse is located on deployment or the precise spot of your homecoming.

Your movements. Save the vacation pics and status updates for after you get home, even for a day trip. It cuts down on the chances that someone knows your house is empty.

At the end of the day, keeping your online chatter to a minimum is really just about keeping you and yours safe.

What are your OPSEC questions? What slips have you been seeing on social media lately? Let’s share advice and help each other stay safer!

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Meg is a military spouse, teacher, writer, and mom of two MilKids. She is an education blog and coaching/advocacy service focused on military families. Meg's mission is to help families understand and navigate the K-12 world. She provides timely posts, timeless advice, and personal assistance to families with school-aged children. You can find Meg online at megflanagan.com and @MegFlanaganEducation

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