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Social media sites like Facebook and MySpace are creating a new sounding board for Marines to share thoughts and ideas with the online community. Marine Administrative Message 181/10, published March 29, charges Marines of all ranks to uphold a positive image of the Marine Corps anytime they are online.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brian Adam Jones

Every Marine a spokesman: Marines must recognize the risks, opportunities of social media

8 Apr 2010 | Lance Cpl. Brian Adam Jones

Marines are expected to be professional whether on duty or off. This timeless notion has permeated Marine Corps standards of conduct, and Marines are expected to hold each other accountable.

While doing the right thing on base or in town may seem like second nature to most Marines, upholding Marine Corps standards online may not be so obvious.

“Social media is an exciting new way to communicate,” said Cpl. Scott M. Schmidt, the social media chief with Defense Media Activity – Marines. “Naturally the Marine Corps absolutely wants to be a part of that. But Marines are perfectionists, so it’s vitally important to ensure this is done right.”

Doing it right means recognizing how one person’s online posts may reflect on the entire Corps, Schmidt explained.

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point has created a social networking page for current and former members of the air station community. Members of the Cherry Point family can find out more, or become a fan of the page, by visiting

“Social media presents unique opportunities and challenges to the Corps,” said Maj. Carrie C. Batson, a public affairs officer with the Division of Public Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps. “What we’re witnessing today is a radical and irreversible shift in how people receive information and communicate with each other.  Research shows that people are increasingly turning to the Internet and social media platforms to get news and information, and to create, share and personalize content.”

A March 2010 study on military Facebook pages conducted by Janson Communications found many military Facebook pages are not clearly marked as being official, lending to confusion with the large amount of unofficial military fan pages, which may contain inaccurate or inappropriate information.

Janson Communications also found the Marine Corps has the most total fans of any military branch on Facebook.

Those realities combine to create an environment where intense public interest is paired with confusion over where to direct that interest.

That responsibility lands squarely on the shoulders of individual Marines who must be cognizant of what they post online.

“As the communication landscape evolves, so must the Corps,” Batson said.  “It’s critical that we communicate in the social media space, since that’s where people are.  But we have to be smart and thoughtful about how we engage.”

The Corps took a step toward that evolution, March 29, with the publication of Marine Administrative Message 181/10, which lifted bans on social networking sites for official and limited personal use.

More detailed guidance is forthcoming, but until then, Marines must exercise appropriate judgement when using these sites.

In their personal use, thinking before posting is a habit that can help Marines ensure they are creating a positive image of the Corps anytime they are online.

 “Every Marine is a spokesman for the Marine Corps. It doesn’t matter if you’re public affairs, a combat engineer or if you’re in an infantry battalion,” Schmidt said.

Officials said it’s important Marines recognize the audience of a post, photo or video goes beyond friends and family. As with all things online, content created by Marines is far-reaching and permanent.

“This is not just an American phenomenon, but a global one,” Batson said. “Facebook has become so popular that if it were a country, it would be the third most populated country in the world.”

Officials said while the size and instantaneous nature of social media present new challenges for the Corps, new media has also created another global stage on which Marines can shine.

“The Marine Corps absolutely endorses the use of social networking,” said Gunnery Sgt. C. Nuntavong, the media chief with DivPA, HQMC. “We think the Marines themselves are the best people to get the story of the Marine Corps out there.”

To find out more about Marine Corps social networking initiatives, please see Marine Administrative Message 181/10 at or visit the air station’s Facebook page at

Five Web tips:

• Operational security  – It is important for Marines and their families to avoid releasing information online that may be deemed as sensitive.

• Protect yourself –  Identity theft is rampant over the Internet. Make sure to avoid posting susceptible personal information on social networking sites.

• Be professional – If someone posts an inaccurate or offensive representation of the Marine Corps, respond with tact and respect.

• Understand your role  – Marines do not make foreign policy decisions; they just execute the last 200 yards. Political posts can be misconstrued as endorsements or criticisms on the Corps’ behalf.

• Do not post anything online you wouldn’t want your mother to see – Furthermore, do not post anything online you wouldn’t want your commanding officer to see. Make sure your page is demonstrative of what it means to be a Marine.

What is operational security? 

“Don’t you think a terrorist could post a picture of a 20-year-old blonde girl on Facebook and start talking to you like she’s your best friend?”

                                                            – Master Sgt. William C. Vornheder

                              Family Readiness Officer, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162.

Be wary of releasing any of these types of information online:

• Unit composition and disposition.

• Deployment and redeployment destinations and timelines.

• Logistical capabilities and limitations.

• Intent to mobilize before public announcement.

• Transportation capabilities and limitations.

• Military intentions.

• Aircraft weapon system capabilities and limitations.

• Deployment routes in and out of theater as well as training routes.

• Flight schedules as well as training requirements.

• Logistical capabilities and constraints.

• Monitoring international military officer training.

• Units requesting intelligence data.

• Peacetime weapons and military movements; origin and destination of units, personnel and equipment.

• Noncombatant evacuation operations, unit evacuation, logistics, staging areas, safe havens, routes and timelines.

• Counterterrorism training.

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point