From the desk of Em Hall, Web Communications Manager for the USO:

If you would have asked me a year ago about the MilBlogging community, I would have asked, what community?  Being new to the world of military nonprofits, I was just beginning to learn about the vast online community that is comprised of and supports the military.  With the recent Department of Defense memorandum issued on the use of social media (officially known as DTM 09-026 Responsible and Effective use of Internet-based Capabilities) and the relaxing of rules governing its usage thereof, the internet has seen a proliferation of Facebook fan pages, Twitter feeds, and blogs related to the military.  I think this is a good thing.

One of the distinct advantages of online-based forms of communication is their ability to provide transparency - to the extent that it’s appropriate and maintains the safety of the Troops - and to react immediately to news and events.  In an age where the average American is probably quite disconnected with the realities of war, providing digital information, images, and videos is essential to remind folks what our men and women in uniform are doing to defend this country.

[caption id=“attachment_1923” align=“alignright” width=“300” caption=“USO tour veterans Saving Abel performed at the 5th Annual MilBlogging conference. Here they pose with blogger Maja Stevanovich - far right - who won the MilBloggie award for best U.S. Military Supporter blog.”][/caption]

Of course the rules are different for active duty military, veterans, and non-military folks like me, who may or may not work for a military-related organization or company.  But I believe there’s one essential theme that permeates all of these blogs, and that’s the idea that war is complicated and messy, but the people who serve are worthy of our respect.  There’s an air of positivity and supportiveness, even when bloggers are criticizing policy, tactics, or individuals.

I have just now hit the year mark for working at the USO and managing our presence on social media and the web.  I must say it’s a humbling experience, and an honor to do what I do.  With this blog, we aim to provide information on the multi-faceted nature of an organization that lifts the morale of the Troops and their families in nearly 150 locations around the globe.  We can’t tell every USO story, but we can do our best to let you know what we’re up to and how your support makes a difference.

We’re going to keep using new forms of technology and media to communicate with our diverse audiences.  From comments on our photo essays from parents who spot their “kids” serving overseas; to the reflections of veterans, some of whom have been supporting the USO since our very first days; to folks who find us and want nothing more than to support the Troops, whether they personally have any connection to the military: all of these people - and more - are able to engage with the USO in ways that weren’t possible five years ago.

So keep the comments coming on Facebook and this blog, keep Tweeting to us (don’t forget that today is #MilitaryMon), and don’t ever hesitate to be honest and open about the programs and services we’re offering our Troops.  Even if it’s negative feedback, we use it to improve what we’re doing here at the USO.  We’re constantly seeking to improve the ways we tell the USO story.  Until every one comes home.

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