OPSEC Reminders: Keeping Our Sailors Safe

Seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for significant physical distancing, there has been a HUGE increase in virtual communication. From video chats and phone calls to texts and social media, technology has been a blessing during this time.  

As military spouses we are privy to information regarding boat movements, however this knowledge is both a blessing and a curse.

It is great to know the estimated time of arrival or approximate location of our spouses port calls. The downside is not being able to share such information with family and friends. Our loved ones want to support us, however they pose the same, common questions: “When does he leave?” or even better “When does he get home?” or my personal favorite “Where is he going?” These well intended questions can be awkward to answer depending on how close you are with the person. If the person recalls the secrecy of boat movement you get the “Oh I’m sorry I know you can’t tell me.” For someone less familiar, you have to awkwardly explain that you are not trying to be rude but you just can’t share. 

As we are all communicating so much more via technology, it’s a good idea to brush up on exactly what can and cannot be shared to keep our sailors safe. For reminders on social media, click here.

What is OPSEC?

Operational Security (OPSEC) is the process that identifies critical information, outlines potential threats and risks, and develops counter measures to safeguard critical information. It’s best to keep in mind the less details the better in regards to what you share outside of those spouses who are also a part of the boat’s FRG (Family Readiness Group). Also remember that despite these spouses knowing the information it should ONLY ever be discussed PRIVATELY and IN PERSON. Try to remember that is it a privilege to be given any information regarding ship movements not a right. 

What Should I Not Communicate?

To ensure sensitive information is not compromised, do not communicate the following: 

  • Deployment timelines and areas
  • The location of families during deployment
  • Planned return date, homecomings or countdowns
  • Any special pre-deployment training or underways

Utilizing a “code” with family members or friends over the phone is not advised. Statements such as “He comes home five days from Johnny’s birthday.” or “ She leaves two days before grandma’s anniversary.” are against the rules as well.  A substantial amount of personal information can be found through social media these days, so someone could easily break your code.  I personally just went through this with my own family as they are trying to be supportive of my husband’s upcoming sea time.  The only information I felt comfortable sharing with my family was the season my husband is deploying in. 

What Happens if I Violate OPSEC?

It is important to be aware of the repercussions of OPSEC violations.  The command may choose to shut down sailor mail to ensure the safety of the crew and the mission. The boat’s schedule may be modified as a result of the timeline or location of a port call being shared. These are just a couple of examples of consequences that would directly impact spouses if OPSEC is violated. 

Lastly, keep in mind that each command may have a different approach to OPSEC, in addition to rules and regulations changing, especially with the craziness that is the year 2020.  Attending an FRG meeting and or talking to the ombudsman will provide insight into your command’s policies.  

While OPSEC regulations might seem like overkill, trust that these rules are in place to keep our service members and military families safe. And while most sailors know, it is vital that family members follow suit. Together, we can keep families safe on the homefront and out at sea. 

If you ever have any questions regarding what to share or how there is never any harm in asking your spouse, the ombudsman, or an FRG board member to be sure you are following the rules.

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