So not long ago, a comment was made on a Facebook page which was, and I use the word carefully but correctly, abrasive in its nature. It was profane, vulgar and hateful. And, oh by the way, it was directed toward me.
This unkind fellow claimed to know me from my days at Fort Sill, claimed to have briefed me at one time or another and claimed that I call him by name. I would never call the gentleman, currently a civilian employee of the Army stationed in Germany a liar, but studying his picture? Well, I have not a clue where or how I know him, nor indeed if I do. But that’s not unusual for Senior Officers and NCOs in positions of responsibility with broad networks of soldiers and civilians who greet them in malls, airports or post offices leaving no clue how you know one another. And those connections are always fun, kind, and you feel the bond of one to another stretch across the years.
But this was not the case with this Facebook connection recently made. I was told I was an _________ 20 years ago and was an _______ today. And I didn’t even remember where we met, if we ever did. I mentioned the name of his commander, which immediately drew a response that there was nothing a commander could do to this civilian employee as he was on social media, on his own time, and commenting on a retired military member.
But au contraire. While I would never follow through on the perceived threat to cast this young man into trouble, there is certainly a way for that to happen, and another reminder to all of those in uniform or employed by the Army: You simply cannot say or do whatever you like on social media. As much as you might like to do so.
Army Regulation 360-1, the Army Public Affairs Program, was recently revised, consolidated with a number of other regulations and is dated Oct. 8, 2020. And while it’s current, the content regarding social media use and appropriate online conduct remain essentially as before. But in short, here’s the rules we’re to live by.
• Soldiers should use their best judgment, remembering that there are always consequences to what is written or photographed. If they are about to post something that is questionable and may reflect negatively on the Army, they should review this and other relevant guidance thoroughly.
• Do not post any defamatory, libelous, vulgar, obscene, abusive, profane, threatening, hateful, racially, ethnically, or otherwise offensive or illegal information or material.
So to my newest fan, take heed. To others be mindful about your employer’s views. Keep yourself out of harm’s way.
Lee Baxter is a former Fort Sill commanding general.