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Poor social media OPSEC practices can paint a target on your military loved
one's back. Using a strong password and privacy settings on your personal
social media accounts can go a long way in protecting yourself and your
family. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Corey Pettis,
Tech. Sgt. Alexy Saltekoff and Master Sgt. Jason W. Edwards/released)

Poor social media OPSEC practices can paint a target on your military loved one's back. Using a strong password and privacy settings on your personal social media accounts can go a long way in protecting yourself and your family. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Corey Pettis, Tech. Sgt. Alexy Saltekoff and Master Sgt. Jason W. Edwards/released)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- We are all too familiar with exploring our favorite social media sites in search of that funny video or picture, or posting our current status and emotions. Although we can have tons of fun on these sites, we need to be familiar with how one click of the mouse can have a significant impact on our Air Force family.

That is why it is so important to keep Operational Security (OPSEC) in mind when using your favorite social media sites.

The importance of OPSEC is not just prominent at the wing level, it is also essential to the Pacific Air Force's mission when it comes to the delivery of rapid and precise air, space and cyberspace capabilities. These capabilities cannot be achieved if OPSEC becomes compromised.

"OPSEC deals specifically with safeguarding our country's military operations and activities so that we may effectively minimize our vulnerabilities and thwart our adversary's intent to exploit our mission execution methods," said Capt. Adam Cade, 18th Inspector General Wing Plans, Programs and Projects OPSEC program manager.

Posting certain content on social media sites can give our adversaries the information they need to discover any security information we may have or any military operations we are about to carry out. It is important to think about how our posts might affect not only our country's security, but that of our military members as well.

"OPSEC to me is having situational awareness about who you are talking to, what you are talking about, and who is around to hear that information," Cade said. "Additionally, sometimes it can be hard to discern what would be considered useful to our adversary, but if there is any doubt, don't post it or talk about it publicly."

Cade provided an example of what could be used by the enemy. Pictures of flightline activities or gate entrance procedures could be used to cause significant damage to a mission and the personnel associated with a mission.

OPSEC awareness is not only present at high Air Force leadership levels, but also at the Airman level. Airman Mark Hughes, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment apprentice, said that not practicing good OPSEC could leave us vulnerable and potentially endanger ourselves and our family. 

Air Force service members and their families need to consider OPSEC and how it can affect everyone.  Practicing good OPSEC is everyone's responsibility.

"OPSEC to me is all of our duty to do our best to protect classified information," Hughes stated. "Anything that gets out could be used against us. So, I believe it is something we should all take seriously, and do our best to keep classified information out of the reach of people not authorized to have it."

A channel through which this information has increasingly been getting into the hands of people not authorized to have it is social media. Social media has greatly grown in popularity over the past decade, and with this new growth comes new concerns.

"When it comes to social media, commonly used information outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are open sources and free to be viewed by the public, anywhere and anytime," Cade added.

Members of that public could include our adversaries. Since they can access the content anywhere and anytime, one accidental post could lead to serious consequences. Although it may be tempting to post that awesome picture of an F-15 Eagle on the flightline, it is best to refrain from that.

"Posting pictures and comments about our activities makes it extremely easy for our adversary to deduce what military operations we are conducting currently or in the future," Cade said.

These posts can greatly compromise OPSEC. This compromise can, in turn, have negative results.

"The consequences range from tighter security all the way to aircraft potentially getting shot out of the sky because someone posted or talked about an operation or activity that needed to remain sensitive," said Cade.

Cade advises that people thoroughly think about the content they are about to post and the potential consequences that could result from that post.

"Our adversary doesn't need to know how many aircraft are on the ramp, or how many helicopters took off, or when and where your spouse or loved ones are deploying," Cade commented. "This is all sensitive information that if in the wrong hands, could lead to significant military operation degradation and in some cases, fatal consequences."

Before a post is made about any security matters related to the Air Force, think about who can look at that post and what an adversary can do with that information.