Operational Security, or OPSEC, is the practice of protecting information about your military member in order to keep him and his fellow military members safe. With email, Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other forms of social media and instant communication, safeguarding information about deployments, troop movements, troop locations and other sensitive information is paramount.
Hitting the “Send” or “Post” button could ultimately endanger your child or spouse along with their fellow soldiers.
OPSEC is a topic near and dear to my heart. During my son’s deployments I have seen OPSEC violated, and it made me feel like his safety was threatened. I know how hard it is to watch them go, but posting his name, rank, identifying unit information, destination and time of anticipated departure on Facebook was never an option. It’s not necessary and it’s not helpful, but more than once I have seen this type of information posted about military members on the Internet.
In order to exercise OPSEC, it’s important to first know what kind of information you need to safeguard.
The following is from the Stryker News website. It’s an excellent definition and understanding of what information we need to protect as parents of U.S. military members:
What Is OPSEC?
Operations Security, or OPSEC, is keeping potential adversaries from discovering our critical information. As the name suggests, it protects our operations planned, in progress and those completed. Success depends on secrecy and surprise so the military can accomplish the mission faster and with less risk. Our adversaries want our information, and they don’t concentrate on only soldiers to get it. They want you, the family member.
Protecting Critical Information
Even though information may not be secret, it can be what we call “critical information.” Critical information deals with specific facts about military intentions, capabilities, operations or activities. If an adversary knew this detailed information, our mission accomplishment and personnel safety could be jeopardized. It must be protected to ensure an adversary doesn’t gain a significant advantage. By being a member of the military family, you will often know some bits of critical information. Do not discuss them outside of your immediate family and especially not over the telephone.
Examples Of Critical Information
- Detailed information about the mission of assigned units.
- Details on locations and times of unit deployments.
- Personnel transactions that occur in large numbers (Example: pay information, powers of attorney, wills, deployment information).
- References to trends in unit morale or personnel problems.
- Details concerning security procedures.
These bits of information may seem insignificant. However, to a trained adversary, they are small pieces of a puzzle that highlight what we’re doing and planning. Remember, the elements of security and surprise are vital to the accomplishment of our goals and our collective personnel protection.
Remember to always play it safe and err on the side of caution. My rule of thumb about when to share information (such as when he is on his way home) is simple: When in doubt keep it to yourself.
Photo courtesy of Jayel Aheram