Tag Archives: army

Why the Courageous Restraint Award is a Bad Idea

Provincial Reconstruction Team NCOMy initial reaction in hearing that the Army is in the process of creating a “courageous restraint” award, an award given to soldiers who restrain from using force that could endanger innocent lives, was worry. By incentivizing soldiers to not defend themselves with force where it’s warranted increases the chances of them being killed themselves.

In these conflicts the enemy lives amongst the people making it incredibly difficult to discern them easily. The enemy already has and will inevitably continue to increasingly push soldiers’ limits, proving their knowledge of the inner-workings of our military, a fact that we too often underestimate.

It is my belief that the creation of an award for or using current awards for “courageous restraint” is entirely unnecessary and, moreover, that it will ultimately prove to be detrimental to our troops.

I see no harm in commanders unofficially recognizing soldiers within their command for restraining themselves from using brute force as a first course of action. I believe, in fact, that this would help boost morale.  However, solidifying these incentives within the official award system counters many of the ethos necessary for soldiers to have in order to effectively fight armed combatants.

One way to address the issue of using lethal versus non-lethal force is revising the rules of engagement (ROE) when the situation on the ground changes. It has been enormously effective in addressing soldiers’ actions and responses to non-combatants in the combat zone.

I know from personal experience that changes to the ROE are quickly disseminated to all units to ensure immediate compliance. Any changes that have been made recently and changes that still need to be made to the ROE should be taught and re-taught to all soldiers, emphasizing its importance as well as incorporating much more of these ‘restraint’ scenarios, where soldiers are faced with decisions between lethal and non-lethal force, into training.

While I would not argue that American lives are more important than any other, I would argue that it is our duty to do whatever we can to protect the American soldiers who are voluntarily putting themselves in harms way.  Incentivizing them to not protect themselves is not the answer.

photo: flickr/soldiermediacenter

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Military Ad Campaigns: Why the Marines Still Rule Madison Ave.

USMC Ad: The Few The Proud The Marines

USMC Ad: The Few The Proud The Marines

As I’ve been driving along I-95, making my way north, I’ve taken notice of the great frequency of billboards advertising the United States Marine Corps. What struck me was not so much the content and veracity of these ads in particular but rather the incredible effectiveness of the Corps’ overall advertising campaign. Just a glance at those strong, composed young Marines in their dress blues makes one aspire to be one of them. That got me thinking, what about these ads makes them so effective?

1) Consistency. The Marine Corps’ message has remained pretty much the same for decades. The Few. The Proud. The Marines. This is their message, their mantra. They found something that works and stuck with it. The words are timeless. One can see their use here in a 1970s tv ad all the way through to the present day. Compare this to the Army’s ever changing slogans (Be All You Can Be, Army of ONE, Army Strong) or the Navy’s (Accelerate Your Life, Global Force for Good) or the Air Force’s (Aim High, Cross Into the Blue, Above All). None of the other services have found one that resonates nearly as well across the generations as The Few and The Proud.

2) Exclusivity. The Marines present themselves as a very exclusive club, quite accurately I might add. They are a (comparatively) small, elite group of warriors. This does well to excite the imaginations of their target demographic – young men – and proves a source of great inspiration to many. With ads like this they set themselves apart, as something great, something to strive for. The requirements for entry into the other services may be different from those of the Corps, but they are certainly no cake walk. It takes a great deal of effort, talent, and competitive edge to become an Air Force Pilot, or an Army Ranger, or a Navy Submariner. And yet these services are rarely associated with the word “elite,” at least not nearly to the same degree as the Corps. It stands to reason that they could incorporate more of that certain air of exclusivity that most of their present campaigns lack.

3) Mythology. More than any other service, the Marine Corps has embraced their own mythos. They have an enduring legacy, one that shines through in their traditions, their uniforms, the manner in which they conduct themselves. So too do the other services. But the Corps has been able to capitalize on this legacy, this mythology, to much greater effect. From the crucible to the silent drill team to the never ending line of warriors in dress blues, they know how to tell their own story in a way that awes and inspires. The other services have achieved this on occasion, I point to the Army’s recent Officer campaign as one example. But by and large their strategies have involved a hodgepodge of stories and messages, from “adventure on the high seas” to “help with college loans.” If there is one thing I would note it is that the services need to embrace their mythos, and make every effort to share it with the world. It is Service Members’ identification with that legacy, that sense of belonging to something great, that more than anything else inspires them to serve, and to continue to serve for years to come. College money may help, but they need to believe in it first.

4) Simplicity. The Marine commercials don’t say much. Because they don’t need to. The images say it all. One of the best Army commercials I ever saw was the premier of the new Army Strong campaign that was shown to a few of us Junior Officers back in 2006. It was epic. And not a single word was spoken. Sadly this version never appeared to make it to air, but was instead replaced by a variety of voice-overs. Effective? Sure. But not nearly as inspiring as that first commercial. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Actual words often just get in the way.


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A Comprehensive Analysis of the US Army on Facebook

Many of our loyal fans know that we have had the honor to be working with members of the U.S. military for much of the last year or two.  We have learned much about ourselves, the world and the sacrifices so many young men and women make for our country, and we are grateful.

Over the last few months, our analysts conducted an assessment of military-use of social media that has been presented to the Pentagon — with a few excerpts and insights available here for your review.  Like just about every other organization or company in the world, it is fair to say that the Army really doesn’t own the Army brand — “we do.”  While that might be easy for me to say, we think our point becomes more clear with the following illustration that represents the “U.S. Army’s Brand” presence on just one of the social platforms, Facebook.  Each of the colored spheres within the Army’s ORBIT-map depicted below represents one of the 100-plus Facebook pages and groups dedicated to Army business.  Think about it, every sphere below has an owner or group of owners communicating to thousands, or millions in some cases, of their fans about Army business whenever they want.  Some of these may be official channels, most are not.

I’d argue that at an absolute minimum, every organization on-line should have a similar map and understanding — whether the brand is GE, Harvard or Nestle — knowing what they’re saying about you, who’s organizing for or against your brand (and what to do about it) is business critical in 2010.

So, when it comes to the Army on Facebook, here are ten things we think are worth knowing —

1. By an order of magnitude, the largest groups and pages related to the Army are those supporting the troops.  The largest of these pages (Support Our Troops)  has close to 1.5 million members, and a few others have well over 100,000.  Outside of the “support the troops” pages, only the official reason US Army page has more than 100,000 members;

2. In general, the large troop support pages fall into the pattern of being somewhat active but not engaged, meaning that they get a relatively high volume of comments and posts for their size, but there is very little interaction surrounding that high volume of postings.  For the most part, they come in the form of a page fan or group member leaving a note or post, and no one commenting on the post or “liking” it.  For groups of this size, that is uncommon;

3. Benchmarked to the Marine Corps official Facebook page, the Army page has room to grow, and could become more engaging.  The USMC’s official page has more fans (235,000 compared to 147,000); the Army is more active in updating its page with official posts – the Army updates close to daily while the USMC updates about once a week.  Still, even benchmarked to its size, the USMC’s page is more engaging, with over 1,000 interactions for every post (with many over 2,000), compared to most Army posts which end up in the hundreds;

4. A major difference exists in the way that the US Army and the USMC handle their default settings on their official pages.  The default view for the US Army page is for the page’s wall to feature the posts from both fans and official posts from the US Army; with dozens of posts per day, official Army posts get lost very easily.  The USMC’s default setting is to have only official posts from the USMC show up on the main wall.  As such, when one logs into the USMC page, the official postings are the first things visitors see.  The Air Force’s official page follows the USMC format as well;

5. The US Army’s official main recruiting presence is far and away the largest of the four branches.  Navy’s recruiting has just over 1,000 members and comes in the form of messages from “Commander, Navy Recruiting,” and the Marine Corps and Air Force roll their recruiting into their main pages.  For a page of its size (28,000), the activity level associated with the official Army recruiting page is relatively high.  For its size, the Navy’s interactions are relatively low;

6. There are dozens of individual recruiting station pages that greatly vary in size. Still, most have less than 100 members, and are not particularly active in terms of posting content.  One recruiting station stands out those both in terms of how they are using their Facebook page, its size, and the tone of postings.  The Army Recruiting WilkesBarre stands out because it is the largest with over 1,000 fans, and the most active in terms of both posting and trying new and engaging techniques for getting content and engaging fans.  An example is their posting pictures of new recruits in photo albums called “Future Soldiers.”

7. Individual commanders are using Facebook as well to open up discussions about installations and their units.  While these officers do not have large followings (most number in the few hundreds), they are trying to engage.  An example is Lt. General Frank Helmick, whose official fan page links directly to a discussion forum where he’s asking questions of his fans, “What is the dumbest thing we do at Fort Bragg?” and “How do you get information about Fort Bragg?”

8. Relatively speaking, the amount of activity surrounding protests of the Iraq war is relatively small compared to the troop support and the official presences of the Army.  The two largest groups both set out with the goal of attracting over a million members and have 31,437 and 25,790 respectively.  Additionally, these pages for the most part are relatively inactive with little activity relative to their size;

9. The activity surrounding wounded and fallen soldiers falls into two main categories.  First, for wounded warriors, the activity is centralized around a) the Wounded Warrior Project’s official Facebook page, which has over 93,000 members; and b) its Facebook Cause, which has over 163,000 members and has raised $39,229 –with engagement and activity levels on par with the US Army’s official page.  

The second group of pages are those for fallen soldiers, which, though not as large individually as the Wounded Warrior Project’s official page, do have individual pages that reach into the tens of thousands;

10. Individual units and bases vary greatly in their size. The two largest, Fort Benning and Special Operations Command both have around 10,000 fans and follow the same basic formula:  updates at least once a day, a combination of posts that are posting of human and general interest items along with useful news about services, and active posted media – both official and fan generated.

Cross posted from SocialSphere

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