Aside from being asked what a blog is, the next question that comes up in talking with people — even other bloggers — is “What is a milblog?” That’s a good question.
Milblogs are blogs about the military, or topics of interest to the military, by those associated with the military. There are several “types” of milblog, most of which will be represented in the milblog track on Thursday at BWE.
Your classic milblog is one of two types. The first is a blog by a serving member of the military who is deployed overseas. Many of these were (or are) started by deployed troops to keep family and others updated on what they are doing, health, and other general information. The second is a blog by former serving members, sharing news, information, and even discussion on events, policies, procedures, and more. There is some interchangeability here, as deployed bloggers often morph into the second type of blog when they return home, and some who started as the latter morph into a deployed blog if they end up either going back onto active duty or otherwise find themselves overseas.
You also have Spouse Blogs, that is blogs written by the wives or husbands of those deployed. As above, these can cover anything from what is happening on the homefront, so as to keep the deployed spouse up-to-date, or get into more discussion of policies, procedures, events and how they effect the family. Some are not limited to that, but get into discussions of foreign policy, COIN, and other topics that are of interest to the people doing the milblog.
Finally, you have what can be described as support blogs. These can be by individuals who support a particular unit; an individual who is doing something on a larger basis, such as teddy bears for the troops (real effort, BTW); non-profits who work to get mail or other support to the troops; or, efforts by companies and others to do things for the troops and their families.
Now comes the fun question: Why should you care about milblogs?
If you truly want to know what is going on, both in a very localized sense or in broader terms in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere, your best source of information is the milblogs. The number of reporters dedicated to covering operations overseas has dropped dramatically in the last few years, and was not high to start with. Some of the coverage provided by stringers is, frankly, poor to fraudulent. Some of the coverage provided by general assignment reporters, often the case as newspapers and other traditional outlets eliminate specialty reporters (science, medical, and others, not just military), suffers from a lack of knowledge about the subject area. Imagine someone knowing nothing of sports having to cover local football… Some milblogs not only compile stories/links from other milblogs, they also get reports from troops in the field and even send their own reporters to embed with operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere.
Secondly, the military is not a monolith. It is composed of individuals who have differing ideas, thoughts, and even personal goals. The milblogs host a variety of discussions on topics ranging from who makes the best guitar to matters of military policy, such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” These discussions are often freewheeling and almost always fun.
Third, when it comes to foreign policy and the conduct of the war, you will not find a better place for knowledgeable discussion of Counter-Insurgency (COIN), military operations, Rules of Engagement (ROE), and other topics crucial to both war and peace.
Fourth, if you want to know the real concerns of military families, of veterans, and others, then you need to check the milblogs. Again, you will find a diversity of opinions, and ideas for fixing various problems, then you need to read the milblogs. These are not academic discussions; rather, they are discussions by people living the issues and dealing with them 24/7.
Finally, if you truly do support the troops and want to help them out, the miblogs provide links to things that really do directly help the troops, their families, and our veterans. From PTSD (and excellent discussions on same) to VA benefits, the milblogs provide a wealth of information, as well as opinion commentary on same.
This year, the milblog track will run all day Thursday 15 October. We hope you will join us, and we may even have a surprise or two. Keep in mind that the milbloggers are not all bloodthirsty savages what couldn’t get a real job for being so dumb (well, there is that Wolf character, but he’s the exception). You might be surprised at what you find, from degrees to hobbies. Be sure to check out the Army Milblog Lounge in the exhibit hall as well, where you can safely interact with milbloggers in a relaxed public setting if scared to talk with us in sessions.
Come meet us, and join in. We even invite you to send in suggestions on what panels you might like to see at next year’s milblog track.
We look forward to meeting you.