Japan-based Troops, Families Use Social Media Sites

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2011 — Air Force Senior Mas­ter Sgt. Joy Joseph­son was in her office on Mis­awa Air Base, Japan, on March 11 review­ing paper­work with a main­te­nance tech­ni­cian when the com­put­ers start­ed shak­ing.
Joseph­son, the detach­ment super­in­ten­dent for Amer­i­can Forces Net­work Mis­awa, fig­ured it was a mild tremor, not uncom­mon to that area in Japan, but then the shak­ing “got vio­lent.”
“We get earth­quakes up here and tremors, … but this one was­n’t stop­ping,” she said.

Although the land and cel­lu­lar phone lines went down, Joseph­son and her staff still had a mis­sion to inform the pub­lic. They start­ed broad­cast­ing on the radio around the clock, but then lost all pow­er.

“We start­ed putting infor­ma­tion out on Face­book,” she said, know­ing many peo­ple would turn to the Inter­net for updates.

“The next thing I know,” she said, “we’re get­ting hits from the States, and par­ents are find­ing our site and ask­ing ques­tions, try­ing to find out about loved ones.”

It’s been an unend­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion flow since. In a mat­ter of days, AFN Misawa’s Face­book page shot from about a thou­sand fans to more than 4,600.

In the wake of the mas­sive earth­quake and tsuna­mi, ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies -– both in Japan and state­side –- have been flock­ing in droves to mil­i­tary social media sites, such as AFN Misawa’s Face­book page, for updates on every­thing from fam­i­ly mem­bers to rolling black­outs to town hall meet­ings.

“It’s been amaz­ing; it’s real­ly explod­ed,” Joseph­son said. “It’s becom­ing such an asset, not only to our com­mu­ni­ty, but more so to the com­mu­ni­ty out­side of Mis­awa, to peo­ple just want­i­ng to gain infor­ma­tion.”

The val­ue became evi­dent, Joseph­son not­ed, in the “infor­ma­tion void” fol­low­ing the earth­quake. “Fam­i­ly mem­bers could­n’t get out to their fam­i­lies to find out what was hap­pen­ing here,” she said. “Face­book became that con­duit.”

Not­ing that the phone lines still aren’t 100 per­cent reli­able, Joseph­son added that the social media wave that start­ed short­ly after the dis­as­ters struck pro­vid­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tion when it was need­ed most. “I feel like we’re real­ly giv­en oth­ers a peace of mind,” she said.

Ear­ly on, fam­i­ly and friends back home post­ed numer­ous requests for infor­ma­tion about their loved ones sta­tioned in Japan. While offi­cials came forth with­in hours after the dis­as­ter to assure the pub­lic that mil­i­tary per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies sta­tioned in Japan were safe, many peo­ple were seek­ing a more per­son­al response.

In a post on Com­man­der Fleet Activ­i­ty Yokosuka’s Face­book site, which has more than 5,000 fans, a con­cerned fam­i­ly mem­ber wrote yes­ter­day: “Have not heard from my broth­er since the quake; lives off base in Yoko­su­ka. … If any­body has seen or spo­ken to him, please respond.”

The post brought a quick and reas­sur­ing response: “He is one of my cowork­ers. He is fine and I have already told him to con­tact you. Sor­ry for that, and hope you were not too wor­ried.”

Peo­ple want­i­ng to pitch in, whether they’re on base or state­side, also are turn­ing in droves to social media sites. Many posts are from peo­ple want­i­ng to send care pack­ages or relief sup­plies.

“The response for vol­un­teers [at Mis­awa] has been enor­mous,” Joseph­son said. “Peo­ple want to know what they can do. Folks want to donate clothes, non­per­ish­ables, but we also have the peo­ple who want to go clean up and help — any­thing they can do to help our Japan­ese friends.”

A col­lege stu­dent in Arkansas post­ed this mes­sage on Yokota’s Face­book page: “My par­ents and younger sis­ter are at Yoko­ta. … Are mon­e­tary dona­tions the only thing peo­ple are ask­ing for? Or are things like blan­kets, hygiene prod­ucts, etc. also need­ed?”

Face­book and Twit­ter sites also are push­ing out news regard­ing the military’s relief efforts. The site is serv­ing a dual role, Joseph­son not­ed, by “tak­ing care of our com­mu­ni­ty, but also telling the Air Force sto­ry.”

Aware of social media’s wide­spread reach, com­man­ders also have been turn­ing to online sites to pass on updates and infor­ma­tion on every­thing from pow­er out­ages and base facil­i­ty clo­sures to solic­i­ta­tions for vol­un­teers and resources. They’re “tweet­ing,” “Face­book­ing,” blog­ging and post­ing to YouTube, Flickr and base instal­la­tion sites.

The Pacif­ic Air Forces blog, called “PACAF Pix­els,” and the command’s Twit­ter site has been stream­ing con­stant updates on the sit­u­a­tion in Japan, includ­ing affect­ed areas, relief efforts and per­son­al accounts.

On sev­er­al Face­book sites, offi­cials have asked peo­ple to sub­mit any ques­tions or rumors they’d like addressed. These ques­tions and respons­es were sub­mit­ted to com­man­ders so they can set the record straight and address people’s con­cerns at in-per­son and vir­tu­al town hall meet­ings. Many of these meet­ings are then pushed out in their entire­ty on Face­book and YouTube so peo­ple, whether base res­i­dents or fam­i­ly mem­bers back home, can stay informed.

In recent days, Face­book com­ments have reflect­ed grow­ing con­cerns about radi­a­tion, spurred on by reports of low lev­els of radioac­tiv­i­ty detect­ed from a nuclear pow­er plant. In response, offi­cials have been pour­ing forth infor­ma­tion and updates to keep peo­ple cur­rent on the lat­est devel­op­ments.

Navy Lt. Tiffani Walk­er, oper­a­tions offi­cer for the Defense Media Activity’s emerg­ing media direc­torate, praised the social media efforts being put forth by instal­la­tions in Japan as well as com­mand efforts from orga­ni­za­tions such as U.S. 7th Fleet.

As the sto­ry plays out in the nation­al media, Walk­er not­ed, anoth­er is play­ing out on local social media sites. “It tells an amaz­ing sto­ry about mil­i­tary fam­i­lies doing great things over­seas,” she said.

“The local news sto­ry, espe­cial­ly in Japan with the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary forces, for me, has been told on a local lev­el on Face­book,” she con­tin­ued. “You can hear people’s sto­ries … which are pri­mar­i­ly for a local audi­ence, but tell such an incred­i­ble sto­ry about the Depart­ment of Defense and the peo­ple sta­tioned over­seas.”

Walk­er not­ed that Defense Depart­ment offi­cials have pushed social media efforts to the low­est lev­el, “and that’s exact­ly what they should be doing.”

“Peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly as con­nect­ed or informed as to the needs and day-and-day aspects of what’s going on as the peo­ple there in Japan,” she con­tin­ued. “It’s the wing com­man­ders in Yoko­su­ka and Yoko­ta that are address­ing that, and that I think is more salient to fam­i­lies than hav­ing some­one [address­ing it] in Amer­i­ca who is not affect­ed by the tragedy.”

That sen­ti­ment is echoed by many. Fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends have been quick to express their grat­i­tude on Face­book for the quick and reas­sur­ing updates social media has pro­vid­ed. A par­ent of a Mis­awa-based air­man wrote: “It took two days for my son to get in con­tact with us; hav­ing the Web gave us some com­fort. I salute your efforts!”

And from Yoko­ta: “Our son, daugh­ter in law, and grand­chil­dren are sta­tioned at Yoko­ta, and here in the States we are get­ting bom­bard­ed with what is going on and it is hard to sort out. Your site is very com­fort­ing and infor­ma­tive.”

DOD has empow­ered com­mands world­wide with the abil­i­ty to use social media, Walk­er not­ed, and in this case, “They’ve done an incred­i­ble job.” As in any sit­u­a­tion, Walk­er remind­ed mil­i­tary per­son­nel to tem­per their social media use with oper­a­tional secu­ri­ty con­cerns.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →