Photo: BI Military & defence
At Business Insider Military & defence, one of the things we’re encouraging is the inclusion of military voices and bloggers — active duty, veteran, or retired — on our vertical. Because they tell it like it is. And there is incredible value in that.Last weekend, we attended the 2012 Milblog Conference hosted by Military.com.
recognised bloggers, defence reporters from high-brow papers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, representatives from the military’s own social media teams, a congressman, and the creator of the hit movie Act of Valor were among small crowd gathered in Arlington, Va.
It was a privilege to attend the conference and meet the people behind the stories we follow.
A common theme we encountered at the conference was that bloggers were surprised people were reading their content. We couldn’t reiterate enough how civilians are interested in the military and defence issues — and whatsmore, milbloggers offer an authentic, fresh perspective on the stories that are reported, misreported, or even unreported in the traditional media.
Efforts here at BI to bridge a connection between niche military blogs and a wider audience have been rewarding, with the creation of The Smoke Pit and a growing group of contributors from some of the most respected military blogs online.
You may have noticed Jonn Lilyea of This Ain’t Hell contributes to BI these days, and after a few months of working together online, it was great to meet Jonn and be introduced to the people of the milblog sphere at his side. As a retired Army platoon sergeant, and a sharp-tongued commenter on defence and political news, he has a reputation for being unafraid to speak his mind. His round-up on the conference — and a bit of a dramatic showdown he was involved in — can he read here.
A few things we took away from the conference:
- The Air Force was not present. The AF was invited to be on panel about the military’s rising use of social media, but under budget constraints, a rep couldn’t make it — this inadvertently tied in with keynote speaker Rep. Randy Forbes’s (House Armed Services Committee) comments about the defence budget cuts, formally known as sequestration, being discussed in Congress at this time. It was a big topic over the weekend, but he told bloggers, “Don’t use the word ‘sequestration’ because no one knows what it is. I even see congressmen glaze over.” Noted.
- The military recognises that the millennial generation is leading the way in harnessing social media. Service branches are getting lower-ranking enlisted members to take over public affairs responsibilities online — a huge job. And it’s paying off.
- Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post admitting, “We don’t have a business model that works.”
- Greg Jaffe saying, “If all we have is Politico, then we’re screwed” — Austrin Wright, a well-known Politico reporter, was sitting right next to him on a panel.
- Military spouses are taking the blogosphere by storm — as members of the “silent ranks” they offer a unique perspective on military life: its hardships, triumphs, and everything in between. They also give good advice.
- Service members really know how to express themselves, and a sense of humour is a must. But they also have serious opinions on issues that matter, like how the government is going to take care of the growing veteran population as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will prove.
- Service members don’t want to be pitied, or grouped together in a “damaged goods” demographic – those we met were proud of their service, and honored. They should be thanked.
And this is one story from the weekend that reminded us why it pays to be surrounded by military veterans: After the first night, we stopped by a local bar, where Jonn brought over Michael Bailey — The Mad Medic — a combat certified Army medic, who deployed to Iraq twice. Less than a minute after introductions, we all heard a crashing thud on one side of the table.
“Suddenly I heard a big thud and something hit the back of my chair. I turned around and see a dude just lying there on the ground.
“My first reaction was that someone had knocked him out, so naturally I was about to go Chris Tucker on his arse. But it wasn’t the case. He was just super drunk and apparently locked his knees and fell over like a ton of bricks. His girlfriend was flipping out, saying ‘Wake up, wake up.'”
“Two seconds later, Doc Bailey of The Mad Medic was on the scene treating him. The civilians looking on closest were offering tips – move his legs this way, turn him that way… etc. I turned and said:
‘Hey, he’s a Combat medic. He knows what the hell he’s doing.'”
A complete post from Paul about the weekend, including eloquent descriptions of his experience paying respect to fallen friends at the Arlington National Cemetery, can be read here. He also visited some fascinating and moving sites in DC, which we think everyone should see.
Now here’s a selected run-down of this year’s conference, appropriately micro-blogged with pictures and quips:
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