Hard day at the office, followed by a dash up I-85/95 to the site of the MilBlog Conference. Arrived very late but in time to meet some people at the reception and stayed until they began pulling the rug out from under.
I toddled off to find some sleep, while the cool kids went off in search of further adventure (see here).
Glad that I got some rest, because I actually made it to the start of the conference and was stunned by the opening welcome: Video (h/t: Gateway Pundit):
RADM Fox followed on a VTC link from Iraq and I became a spectator to some remarkable people who have made the MilBlogs a community that deserves such respect. The first two panels were both terrific, featuring as they did "bloggers who have been there" (including Doc and Sgt Hook from the "troop" side and Bill Roggio and Bill Ardolino from the "embed" blogger side).
The second panel was "All in the Family" with a simply awesome group of bloggers who have not only had to deal with the issues of being family members of soldier,sailors, Marines and airmen, but who have reached out to others in their situation with advice and listening ear for those to whom the experience is new or strange (especially, as part of the panel noted, to the families of National Guard and reserve members who do not live near military communities and cannot find common ground with others going through the experience). I know as a deploying sailor that 99% my days were spent doing boring or routine stuff - but I hadn't really thought of the fact that the people you leave behind are caught up in 24/7 concern over your well-being. The families hunger for news - of any kind. Communications having changed so much since I first deployed (6-8 weeks between letters), I hope that unit commanders are using group emails for weekly newsletters just letting family members know that PFC or Seaman Jones's birthday did not pass unnoticed or that showers are available or whatever. The panel was inspiring, as was their guest speaker, Mike Stokely talking of his son, killed in combat, see here.
An underlying theme of these sessions was "bloggers v MSM" which came to its head in Session 3, the panel on which I sat (old guy, beard at far right) when Noah Shachtman offered himself up to defeat myths of the MSM. Not really my field of expertise. The discussion devolved (as I recall it) into Public Affairs and their role and whether units ought to have "unit bloggers." In my view there is a fine line to be drawn between "getting the word out" (good) and engaging in "info ops" (spinning the facts- bad). We all try to walk that line. Any editing and selection of facts to present in writing can be considered spin. If the report is that 9 U.S. troops died in Iraq today that's a fact, but it ignores the fact that 240,000 troops did not die in Iraq today. I gather that the anger of many of the crowd toward the MSM was the selective manner of the reported stories -bad news leads, never story of a successful school opening or new well being dug. These stories are underreported even in blogs. And, if posted, seem to pass without comment. When Slab suggested unit blogging, he may have meant either "combat cameramen" or a guy from the 47th Army Reserve Well Drilling unit. In my view they both have an important story to tell. Let's get reports from the SeaBees/Engineers and the contracting officers who are building up Iraq's infrastructure. The major ground combat is over and all those "nation-building things" need to be covered. Heck, pay my way and I'll embed to cover them. Of course, my comments are written with 20/20 hindsight. I took at whack at the MSM reporting to the depth where it puts people's lives at risk. Thanks to those who invited me to sit on the panel with so many bloggers I admire.
Lorie Byrd covered panel 4 better than I could here. The panel was Moderator Chuck Z, Sandra Edens for Sew Much Comfort, Roxie Merritt for OSD/America Supports You, Patti Patton-Bader for Soldier's Angels, and Mary Ann Phillips for Soldier's Angels Germany. You know, people who are making a difference in other people's lives. When persons speak of "supporting the troops" they should follow these examples.
It was fun to put faces to names when there was time to meet and greet. Lex, Noonan, SteelJaw Scribe, Curt from Chaotic Synaptic Activity, Fred Fry, Bill Roggio, Sgt Hook, Fuzzy Bear Lioness, DadManly, Lorie Byrd, SMASH (yes, he was there), Ward Carroll of Military.com, streiff from RedState, AW1 Tim (who often comments here), Andi, Matt from BlackFive. And so many more who were kind enough to take the time to chat.
The conference was great! Andi did a wonderful job and deserves more than simple words can offer. Thanks to her and to everyone else who put it together. And thanks to Soldiers Angels and all the others who really do support the troops.
And thanks to the troops and their families!