One of the first concepts I was introduced to when we came out to Washington was OPSEC (Operational Security). When J was in Bahrain, there wasn’t really a need to worry too much about OPSEC. He was in the middle of the desert in Bahrain. If he’d told me the region he was in or a nearby town, it wouldn’t have meant much to me anyhow. I honestly don’t remember even hearing of Bahrain before he was stationed there.
With a ship, it’s different. A deployed ship’s movements is closely guarded in the military. It may seem kind of silly – ships, especially an aircraft carrier like the Stennis, are massive – but no matter how large a ship is, the Pacific is a whole heck of a lot bigger, and ships are equipped with plenty of equipment and technology to keep them hidden.
For a civilian associated with the military, OPSEC is pretty cut and dry: Keep your mouth shut. With Facebook, Twitter, and email, however, it’s a lot more complicated to keep information under wraps than back when all that was required was a black marker and a careful eye on a letter. And, trust me, nothing is more frustrating than seeing a comment on a photo or a post on a ship’s page that says, “Hey, does anyone know when the next port call/return date is?”
The best piece of advice I read was, “Never assume the enemy isn’t collecting information.” Posting a month can give someone that one last bit of information they needed to track down the ship. It sounds dramatic, but it’s really true.
The other problem is you never know what information being circulated is actually true. Spouses often create codes between themselves to give information to each other securely, but you never know when the code can be misinterpreted. One of the wives shared a return date for the deployment J is currently on, and when – several months later – J got a return date from a source on the ship, it was completely different.
Frankly for me having a specific return date doesn’t affect things that much. It’s still months away, and I’ve been planning for their return since before they left. Until I need to be on that pier with the kids, waiting on the ship to arrive, the return date is secondary. Okay, actually until I need to have my and the kids’ outfits picked out, and the house picked up, and all the “Welcome home!” festivities ready (AKA The Second Christmas) and be on the pier, it’s secondary. Until then, I have outfits to pick out and a house to clean (Let’s not lie, that’ll be the last thing to be done.) and The Second Christmas to plan. 🙂