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Is an Army Blog Any Different? (Sponsored Post)

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Disclosure: The Army sponsored the Military Track at NMX 2013, and this post is part of their sponsorship package. We think what Captain He has to say about blogging while in the military is not only interesting, but can help give you a new perspective on your own blog, whether you’re in the military or not. -Editor

Captain He at NMX

I am in the Army, and I write a blog. To many people I have talked to, this means I write a blog about the Army. Following this logic, this means that I write a blog featuring pictures of soldiers in sandstorms in remote areas of Afghanistan with accompanying stories of intense missions to villages and the good work we are doing there, in contrast to the big media stories of the quicksand situation in the Middle East. When I say no, I’m not in the Infantry, they then think maybe I write one of those military wife blogs, full of tips of what to put in a care package to send to your husband overseas and what to wear to his coming home ceremony. Still not true; I may be an Army wife, but in a dual-military relationship that leaves both of us with our fair share of homecomings and goodbyes.

I don’t try to write an Army blog. I write a blog that just happens to occur in the context of me being in the Army. I do not write about Middle Eastern policy, because I am not a Middle Eastern policy wonk. I do write about the Army’s Cultural Support Teams and what a great idea they are, because I am a female and I am in the Army. I don’t write about secret missions in Afghanistan, because 1) that’s probably violating security, and 2) as a signal officer, I plan networks and make sure those Infantry guys have internet.

Old vs. New

The idea of old-style military blogging, or “milblogging,” was covered at the Milblog conference in DC last year.  A lot of the original milbloggers started to blog about the “real” story on the ground. When blogging became a more legitimate news source, and journalists at big papers started blogging in addition to filing their real news stories, the role of bloggers as story tellers started to diminish, and they became another news source in themselves.

I don’t think the original idea of the blog, telling someone’s story, is any different though. Maybe blogs are faster, shorter, more reactionary and less analytical, than a real news story, but it still tells a story. Today’s stories among milbloggers are a little different, but no less important.

My Idea of “New”

I don’t try to write news stories, I just try to tell the real Army story. Soldiers are not deployed every single day of their Army careers; they do spend time at home. In the almost four years that I’ve been in the Army, I’ve only been deployed to Iraq for about five months of that. The rest has been here in Georgia, training and planning and watching other units deploy.

Health and Fashion

Maybe my blog would better fit under the health or fashion categories of blogging. They do seem to be the top two topics for blogs right now.

Think about it, I work out every day with my unit. We run, we do calisthenics, I like to swim and bike and do triathlons and races on my weekends. Of course I write about it. I write about injuries I get, and how the Army tries to deal with that. I write about how stupid my hot pink shoes look with the Army PT uniforms that don’t even fit me.

That’s another thing I like to write about. While I watch my friends post their instagram #OOTD, I wear the same thing every single day. Want me to post that? I can do a cute face with minimal, natural looking makeup, picked specifically for its high-SPF content and the waterproofness/sweatproofness of the mascara, and show off my worn-in combat boots and small-short men’s uniform.

Or, on special occasions, I get to wear my dress blue uniform. Did you know that the first women’s uniforms, for Army nurses pre-WWII, were made on a men’s mannequin, and NO ONE NOTICED for almost 20 years? That’s how much the Army cared about providing their females with high quality uniforms. Some new prototypes of female-specific uniforms are being field-tested, not to mention female specific body armor (after only ten years of sending women to active combat zones), so maybe some changes will be coming eventually.

Just Telling Stories

So, there you have it. I blog to write about life and what I do, just to get my story out there. Even if I think my life is boring sometimes, it’s still different from anyone else’s in the world. Whenever I’m stuck, here are my go-to prompters that make me write:

What did I do different today? Maybe I did the same thing I do every day: went for a run, made some coffee, checked my email, made some slide presentations, answered some phone calls. What made it different, or special, or particularly awful?

What major events do I have to look forward to? In the Army, there is always something coming up: another deployment, a short trip for training somewhere, the possibility of a new assignment, or even just the chance to take leave following a grueling two week training exercise.

What inspires me? Sometimes getting up early to run in the middle of winter is hard, but I don’t have the option of staying in bed. What inspired me today to smile and push on? It might be thinking of my friends who can’t run anymore, or recently meeting someone who just said, “thank you for your service.” Sometimes it’s thinking about how lucky I am to have this opportunity, and that I don’t want to let down all the generations of Soldiers before me who gave it all. And sometimes it is knowing that Thursday is donut day, so I better get up and run.

Nothing seems too small to be a part of my story. Maybe it isn’t big news, or a big story, but it’s all mine, and I’m going to keep writing.

Captain Hannah He is an active duty officer in the U.S. Army. She is currently stationed with the 35th Signal Brigade at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Captain He attended New Media Expo 2013, leading expo attendees through a PT-inspired workout and sharing her experiences as an Army Strong Stories blogger.


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  • Greg

    Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing your experiences and ideas and keeping it “Army Strong”. Former member of the 82d Airborne Division, 95B, Fort Bragg, NC (nine years). Thanks for your service and best of luck.

  • Charlie Sherpa

    I was a presenter in the 2013 New Media Expo’s military track, in which the evolving nature of military-themed blogging was explored in depth. I find He’s perspective useful, but only to a point. Unfortunately, lazy sentences contrasting “real news stories” and blogging do much to perpetuate negative stereotypes regarding what it means to be a “blogger” or a “journalist.”

    When my blog was recognized by the Military Reporters and Editors Association in 2012, the judges remarked about how “obviously, not all bloggers write while wearing pajamas.” It was a funny line, but it too unnecessarily divided the storytellers (bloggers) from the storytellers (journalists).

    As a former newspaper and magazine journalist, as well as a retired Army commo guy, I like to think I have a boot in both camps.

    In teaching other service members, veterans, and military family members how to blog, I try to use the term “online journaling.” I point out that one definition of “journalist” is someone who regularly records news and events. Writers of journals were around before there was an Internet, before there was a World Wide Web, before there were “web blogs.” on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and other platforms, there are and will be writers of online journals outside of the “blog” format.

    For more of my NBX 2013 talking points, see: http://www.redbullrising.com/2013/01/10-talking-points-prior-to-mil-blog.html

    Military blogs come in many forms and flavors. As discussed at NMX 2013 last January, however, each seems to be attempting to relate and make sense of their own experiences, their own stories. Aftera ll, everybody has their own war. For me, the ideal milblog is still a “personal narrative related to first-hand experiences.” Ultimately, I think that’s what He is saying, too. All of us is smarter than one of us. Each of us tells AN Army story; collectively, we help tell THE Army story.

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