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Pre-deployment Discussions You Must Have: OPSEC

Editor’s note: This is the first part of a series on pre-deployment discussions. If your family is getting ready for a deployment or extended temporary duty, it can seem overwhelming to remember everything that needs to be done. Over the years, we’ve found that there are some specific topics your family should discuss together before you leave. If you talk about these up front, then when something arises, it’s easier and quicker to make a decision or take an action based on your discussion.

OPSEC, or Operations Security, is one of the most important conversations you can have pre-deployment. And don’t focus is with your spouse—remember that extended family should understand this too.

Here’s where to start:

1. The Importance of Operations Security

OPSEC is the process of identifying and controlling critical information that is not, and should not, be generally considered common knowledge. As a military family member, you’re part of the OPSEC team and play a crucial role in ensuring your loved one’s safety. Understanding and following OPSEC ensures your safety at home, too.

For the military family member(s):

For example, use common sense when hanging yellow ribbons on trees, sticking magnets on cars, or wearing clothing that advertises your deployment status. These may be seen as opportunities for others to recognize your vulnerabilities. Help your service member feel confident about your safety and security while he or she is deployed by protecting yourself.

Conversations: Most likely you’ve never had to censor your own conversations before, but now it’s different.

  • Discuss how your family will agree to share information with others
  • Understand the risk involved by having conversations about the troops
  • Avoid talking about information on the phone, in public, or with media
  • Remember: You’re under no obligation to share details about where your service member is and what he or she is doing there with extended family members, friends, or neighbors.

Responding to questions: Most people who ask questions about your service member are doing so out of natural curiosity and concern. However, for safety’s sake, less information is better. Learn to respond in a way that lets them know that it’s something you can’t talk about or don’t feel comfortable talking about. Don’t be afraid to take a stand and stop answering questions. Some ideas for responding are:

  • “I’m not exactly sure what her day-to-day responsibilities are, but I know she’s working hard.”
  • To end a persistent conversationalist try, “It’s really a matter of national security.”

Gossip is hurtful to everyone: You may be aware of personal information at home that service members in theater aren’t, and sometimes it’s best kept that way.

  • If someone at home confides in you, honor that confidentiality.
  • Be a trusted friend—unconfirmed information can be hurtful or damage a relationship.
  • Don’t talk about other people to your service member.
  • If you’d rather someone not confide in you, please be honest and tell them you’d rather not get involved. You might refer them to their SFRG Leader or other professional.

Social networking: Status updates, countdown calendars, and other online displays can jeopardize your safety as well as the safety of your service member. The military is constantly making decisions on how to manage social networking in a way that allows a continued line of communication between service members and their families without jeopardizing security.

  • Watch constantly for military updates and restrictions on the use of these sites.
  • Remember that your information is never totally secure.

For the service member

You have responsibilities when it comes to OPSEC when you’re in theater. Here are some things to consider and discuss:

  • Be very careful not to leak information from where you are. Monitor your conversations.
  • As a service member, don’t put your family in situations where they know something they shouldn’t know.
  • Follow protocol. If something tragic happens in theater that involves your unit, don’t talk to your family members about it until you know for certain that all appropriate notifications have been made.
  • Remember that if a family member tells you something that might not be appropriate for public knowledge, don’t repeat it even to your closest friends. Your family needs to know they can trust you.

You can breathe easier now that you’ve taken steps to ensure everyone is safe and following security protocol. Go here for the next discussion on block leave and R&R.

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  1. Part 3 of 4: Six TDY Discussions | Army Wife Network - [...] we are into the third week of our topic “Six TDY Discussions to have with your family.” OPSEC, Block…
  2. Part 2 of 4: Six TDY Discussions | Army Wife Network - [...] article looks at a second critical topic to discuss before heading out (The first topic, OPSEC, is here). You…

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