Milblogging: a mixed bag of weird

Seeing news that blogger Colby Buzzell is likely to be shipped back to Iraq, with the promise that the US military won’t like him even more this time, made me curious about the whole milblogging thing (Military Blogging).

There’s an index of milblogs at Milblogging.com that allows you to surf around the whole scene with little effort.

Some of it, like BLACKFIVE, is interesting in some aspects and seriously disturbing in others. Ever heard of a the Dead Tango Dance? Neither had I and I’m not so sure it was worth it.

BLACKFIVE is run by an ex-infrantry and armour-riding soldier who’s now an IT exec living in Chicago. I have no real way of knowing how typical it is, but it’s obviously not a frontline blog.

One post caught my eye. Uncle Jimbo, posting at BLACKFIVE, is selling DVDs of footage he calls Dead Tangos, set to music. I’ve put the link to a trailer for the DVD here, but I wouldn’t let your children see it.

It would be unfair to only talk about that aspect of the BLACKFIVE blog. You can also buy merchandise to support the US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan like the fetching T-shirt design shown below.

There’s also some footage of marines on patrol along a road and searching for IEDs. This is interesting.

So, BLACKFIVE is basically OK about the war, but what else is there out in milblogland?

There’s I’m not cut out for being a military wife (Well, honey, “Who is?”). A strong Christian woman who believes her husband, Jon, has a place reserved in heaven should he not come home. I really hope he does come home lady, I really do.

This is at times a painful story to read. The title of the blog sums it up. This woman is struggling now that her husband is in Iraq. She’s been to counselling recently, and it is her faith alone that appears to keep her going.

So I truly have to give this over to God. The house going up for sale, the moving, Jon being in a war, what job he will have when he gets back. I surrender it, I have to…100%. Not a little, then scooping it back up and taking it on myself. It’s yours dear God. Do with us what you will. Because I have realized that ultimately my dreams and goals and the only way I will ever feel satisfied in this life is if I am serving you full time. Sure there are things I would like to do and have in the flesh but my true hearts desire is to serve You. Please open the doors to do that lead me down your path and close those ones that distract us from your purpose. My flesh is weak but my spirit is getting stronger.

[read I surrender 9 April 2008]

On a different tack is Outside the wire, a milblog by a Canadian journalist, Doug Schmidt. I’m not sure this qualifies as a real military blog, but who am I to judge.

Schmidt is embedded with Canadian troops near Kandahar, Afghanistan. In a recent post he reports on the solemn ceremony to farewell two dead officers, who were killed in the line of duty.

I tried to connect to a number of blogs that were set up on the Xanga site. However, all of them (most in the top 100 milblogs on the Milblogging.com index) were disconnected. In each case, the error message said the site had been shut down by its owner.

In fact, all of the first ones I tried on the “Iraq” list were inactive, or as in the case of Greenzone Chaplain, hadn’t been updated for a while (a long while, since 2005 in this case). A piece in Wired from May 2005, perhaps sums up the situation then and now.

The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops’ online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say.

[read Wired 2 May 2005]

However, Jake’s Life is currently being updated by his father. The most recent post was May 6, 2008 – a call out for supplies not available in the MREs.

I just received an email from Jake. He is unable to post to this blog for the reasons he explained earlier.

He has asked me to pass this on to all who have asked how they can help.

Dad- could you put up on the blog that we could use- jerky, sunflower seeds, gum, drink mixes, AAA/AA batteries, old books/magazines, protein powder packets (individual packets), copenhagen (not for me obviously), crossword/word game books, boot socks.

On behalf of Jake’s Mom and me, thank you for the support you have given all of us.

Badgerdad

The explanation referred to by Badgerdad appears in a post dated 21 March, the eve of deployment to Afghanistan.

It is no secret that my unit is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. As I approach that date I have been thinking about how I am going to continue this blog while I’m deployed. For anyone that read this website while I was in Iraq you know that I wrote it like journal, because that is what it was to me, the writings that I have been keeping for years, simply with a publish button at the end of it. But, now that I am with a different unit, with a very different and unique mission to be accomplished on this deployment, I am at a crossroads. I cannot possibly continue this website like I did last year in Iraq, both for operational security reasons and for reasons of safety for my family and friends. So, with that being said, I regret to say that I will no longer be publishing anything that involves my involvement in the Marine Corps on this blog.

By this point I was getting a little frustrated. It seems that most of the blogs listed at Milblogging.com that are/were based in Iraq were active in 2005 and not many beyond that date. I know the US military went a little hard on them, but I hadn’t realised that the frontline bloggers had been effectively silenced.

Maybe I’m missing something, but internet searching is not that hard.

I eventually found a blog that had been updated only a couple of days ago (7 June), but the milblogger was on his way home to attend a family wedding. Damn. Anyway, here’s Afghanistan Without A Clue and for some reason it’s decorated with anime.

I got to AWAC from another indexing site, Military Blog, which appears to be sanctioned by the US Government (it should come with a health warning).

There’s recruiting and other army advertising all over it. Unfortunately the link from Military Blog that says Iraq frontlines or Afghanistan frontlines take you back to the Milblogging.com list of dead(ish) links. Bummed out dudes.

Finally, an interesting sideline, there’s going to be a milblogging stream at the Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas in September this year. I found a link to the conference agenda at a site called A soldier’s perspective. I think this might also be a sanctioned blog given the way the place is decorated and the URL.

The agenda looks interesting, including a session “Are milblogs still relevant?” A good question perhaps in light of my little adventure.

8 Responses to Milblogging: a mixed bag of weird

  1. Dr Mark Hayes says:

    In case you haven’t seen it, the cover, and the newsagent’s or street poster, for Time Magazine, for June 16, 2008, at least in Australia, is delicious: The U.S. Military’s Secret Weapon over a half camouflage filled capsule, with the other half labeled Prozac 20 mg.

    We already know a lot of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are (semi-) officially tanked up on various kinds of speed, as well as patriotically hyped, before they go out on operations, and as they tool around they’re playing, very loudly, various kinds of very heavy, even death, metal on their iPods and in-vehicle sound systems. So, they’re strung out on operations, and are pumped with Prozac to make them comfortably numb when they get back to base. What’s next? Is Universal Soldier actually prescient?

    We also know the US veteran’s affairs support systems make what Ron Kovac – Born on the 4th of July – experienced look like a summer camp, with a raging epidemic of PTSD etc.

    So, how come folks still want to join the military, even as recruiters are seriously falling behind in their targets, and how come the Bloggsphere isn’t overwhelmed with true stories from every soldier deployed in Iraq etc telling folks back home what it’s Really Like?

  2. CJ Grisham says:

    Dr. Mark, what the hell are you talking about? I’m an Iraq vet and possibly going back soon and I don’t know the Soldiers you profile here. Soldiers in Iraq blast everything from Country to Hip Hop to Classical junk. When were you there again to get this firsthand experience anyway?

    we join the military because we love our country and want to do something as selfless as it gets – helping people find and enjoy freedom and eliminating threats to this nation. That may sound “comfortably numr” and “tanked up” to you, but you really have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Marty, just to clarify, A Soldier’s Perspective is a private/personal venture. I started it as a way to discuss my military service and comment on military-related issues. However, we are being sponsored to cover the BlogWorld Expo this year, so one could say we’ve whored ourselves out so we could provide a quality product on a modest military budget. We’re using our personal leave time to participate. Good roll-up too!

  3. CJ Grisham says:

    What I meant was the military doesn’t sanction/approve/endorse/vet or otherwise edit the content on my blog. Don’t think I adequately explained that.

  4. Thanks for your comments CJ, if you’ve any idea why so many blogs seem to be closed, I’d like to know.
    I thought a couple of reasons:
    1. the blogger’s no longer on active duty, or has left military and doesn’t want to leave it there,
    2. the buzz of blogging is waning a bit
    3. the wired article – the chain of command is getting tougher on vetting blogs from serving soldiers.

    Also, does “Dead Tango” mean what I think it does?

  5. Mrs G says:

    The Mudville Gazette is also blogged by an active duty milblogger who just returned from his second deployment from Iraq and is one of the largest Milblogs out there. We post active duty and deployed milbloggers almost daily in our Dawn Patrol. The military doesn’t sanction/approve/endorse/vet or otherwise edit any of our content either.

    Closing Blogs is nothing new. So many site’s owners just give up on their own. They come and go, as MilBloggers do. Many milbloggers post in the lonely down hours far from home, spill their guts for the world, then abandon their spots when the tour of duty is up. They have lives again somewhere in the world, and no need to share the details. So it goes.

    Many are truly gone – no site left at all. “The page cannot be found.” Other blogs remain, like abandoned defensive positions in shifting desert sands. Once some bold soldier was here, now no more. The ghost battalions of the web.

    Those that have quit blogging that we catergorized as joining the “Ghost Battallion” have written their part of the history, these blogs although not active they are important. They are more than the thoughts they left behind, but now only those orphaned thoughts remain, left for any to see. Museum pieces, like tombs, offering something to the scholar or the scavenger, or enjoyed in passing by the casual traveler. Any why many are left for prosperity.

  6. Mrs G, thanks, I’ve created a link to MG in your post. It’s comprehensive and also great to see it so active with news and views.
    Your poetic arguments about the “why” of milblogs strikes a chord. Certainly the first draft of a history that will take some time to fully comprehend.

  7. CJ says:

    EM, I highly encourage you, if you’re able, to attend the Milblog Conference this year in Las Vegas. If not, check out the various blogs – including mine – that will be covering the event. I was on one of the panels of the first milblog conference and some of my fellow bloggers with me that day no longer write.

    Mrs. G has it right that sometimes politics gets in the way, commanders get in the way, family gets in the way, college gets in the way, or people just lose the motivation to write anymore.

    I was once approached and “reprimanded” by the Pentagon for my blog and I told them where to stick it. I’ve never violated any rules so they had no business telling me what I could do in my off-duty time. Some people go overboard, but I think the DoD has realized the value that milbloggers provide and now work hand in hand with us. That doesn’t mean we work for them, just that there is a more open sharing of information. I’ve criticized the Pentagon when it was warranted (check out some recent posts).

  8. Dr Mark Hayes says:

    To C J Grisham et.al…

    While I deeply appreciate the feelings you, and other Vets, articulate, and you certainly have authenticity on your side by way of your first hand experiences in Iraq… Many years ago, I spent very high quality time working with Col David “Hack” Hackworth and played a minor role in helping him write and then promote his biography, “About Face”.

    Where are the weapons of mass destruction we were solemnly assured would be found in Iraq which were the initial justification for the invasion? Then came the removal of a despicable dictator. Now, I guess, the US et.al. are in Iraq because if they pulled out, a vacuum would be created into which would seep, or pour, still more nastiness, which would use Iraq as a base for extending even worse nastiness elsewhere. I don’t have any credible solutions to propose either, BTW. But we must re-visit, and excoriate, the initial public justifications for the invasion, and hold those who freighted them fully to account.

    And as for US soldiers, we’ve seen this kind of thing on Australian TV, and have no reason to doubt at least some of this is accurate – http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2004/s1163292.htm

    Veterans, and still serving soldiers, have a positive moral duty to ask of their military superiors, and political leaders, “Why are we here? Why did you get us into this?” And have an absolute right to expect truthful and complete answers, as have the wider electorate as well. And if the answers are partial, unconvincing, or outright lies verifiable as such by reference to reliable sources, then all have a positive moral duty to resist using all available nonviolent means.

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