6 Surprise OPSEC Don’ts


As a military blogger, almost every site I visit has something along the lines of the saying, “Loose Lips, Sink Ships,” paired with some jolly looking seamen carrying his pack.  But also every day I see things on these same sites and pages that make me cringe.

What is OPSEC? Technically speaking, OPSEC is how we keep servicemembers safe and military actions going as planned. Breaking OPSEC, then, happens when we say or do something publicly that puts either of those things at risk. So, when you post online any information about any pending military action or movement, any deployed servicemember’s location or anything about any military plans that is supposed to be secret (the name of someone who has been killed, for example, before that information is publicly released) you are violating OPSEC.

Let’s start with this basic list of simple OPSEC rules:

Do not post last names of any Soldier on this public forum

Do not post specific deployment and/or Troop movement dates (June is OK – June 15 is Not)Do not post specific Troop name information (92nd ID is OK – 3rd PLT, Delta Co, 92 Inf BN is Not).

Do not post the specific deployed location of your Soldier or any unit (Afghanistan is OK – FOB Jones in Not).

Do not post unit/Soldier itineraries (is. leaving post on June 15, flying to East Coast, to Europe, to Kuwait, to xxx base).

Do not post any Troop movement, size and/or action (ie. s patrol of 15 going outside the wire on Thursday)

That list is a good start – but it doesn’t touch on some of the most common mistakes I see. Maybe you are making one of these without knowing it. Here is my list of top 6 OPSEC don’ts

1. Don’t “check-in” at your FOB. Believe it or not, soldiers have checked-in at their Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) on Facebook. No joke. So now everyone knows where you are. Good work.

2. Don’t list your specific job on Facebook. Do you really want the enemy to know specifically what you do? That information could potentially be used against you.

3. Don’t post where your husband is ported. Ask yourself this: could someone with bad intentions who knows my husband is gone (because I said so on Facebook) use this information to make me think he knows my husband or make my husband think he knows or has been in contact with me? If so, don’t post it.

4. Don’t post when your husband is coming home. You may think your Facebook page is private – but do you really know that for sure?

5. Don’t ask for prayer or good thoughts when your husband is “on mission.” I know you want people to be supporting your family – but letting everyone know he is out on patrol is not the way to do it. This would be a message best relayed privately.

6. Don’t post your metadata. “What is metadata,” you ask? Metadata is that information linked to your photos or status updates letting people know where you posted from. Let’s specifically think about ones that are sent to you by you husbands that you then post for them. Have you ever seen MythBusters?  Well one of the hosts made a big booboo by posting a picture of what was later determined to be his house. How did people figure that out? One word – Metadata. So, not to dwell on this particular part of OPSEC too much here’s quick link to how to remove that info.

Remember: just because the military tells you something, does not mean you can talk about it publicly. Maybe privately – but on Facebook? Not so much.

We are a very OPSEC sensitive household. In my opinion there really isn’t any way to be too OPSEC minded. Too me, even if giving out information doesn’t hurt military security it may hurt my personal security, or “PERSEC.” Here are some things to think about for that:

Are your Facebook check-ins really necessary?

Can you see your spouse’s job identification or rank on his uniform in pictures? It may make you a target. Think about it: you list where you are (city), that’s a base location – say your profile picture has your hubby in his uniform in it – that’s branch, last name, rank and possible job identification.

Are count-up clocks to deployments a good idea? I know they don’t want you to do count down’s, but count-ups really all that much better?

Do you have service related stickers on your car? I have no identifying markers on my car.  No, “half my heart is in Iraq”, or Air Force Wife, or cute little family member decals. It may seem silly, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle for someone looking for some information.  Someone could be driving behind me and in five minutes figure out that I’m a wife of whatever branch, I have this many children, including an honor student at such and such elementary school, and that my husband isn’t here.

Is your profile military related? I try not make military pictures my profile pictures unless they are dated (older than five years or so). If they are up they are edited. Yes, I try to edit the pictures even on my private page.  My last name is also not on my page.

Here’s some food for thought: I happened to catch a repeat of Army Wives where the biological father of Joan and Roland’s son found them.  He had bits and pieces of information, like they were black, that she was a Colonel, and made the comment “How many female black colonels could there be in South Carolina?” It may seem like dramatic television, but it’s not far from the truth, and is an excellent example of how small, meaningless, tidbits of information can be put together to create a much bigger picture.


Rheanna is an Air Force Wife and mommy of three.  She began dating her husband at the ripe old age of sixteen and followed him through his choice to join the military in 2002.   In 2004 they married and made their first move.  Rheanna has a degree in Criminal Justice, and is currently a SAHM and Wife, blogger and runs her own handmade crochet and knitted items shop.  They currently reside in the DC area, which makes these two history nerds extremely happy!  You can find Rheanna blogging at Cammo Style Love.

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35 Comments on "6 Surprise OPSEC Don’ts"

  1. I dont know how those are considered "surprise", seems like common sense to me. I can't believe how much information soldiers and their spouses/family members put out there. It's not safe for you, or anyone with you. I wish the military would just "insist" on service members not having facebook at all.

    • Amy_Bushatz | July 5, 2012 at 9:27 am |

      They are common sense …. but, like you said, I surprise to some people!

  2. Sadly, even when my husband was in country and we had had our whole FRG meeting about OPSEC, the boys got blacked out when a spouse said something she shouldn't have… I really wish people took it more seriously. We had a huge issue with FB during my husbands last deployment.

  3. Alot of people put themselves out there on websites like facebook. People need to use their brains
    when they use the internet. There are alot of bad people that use the internet too. We were all
    taught OPSEC but as technology evolves, we need to be more careful.

    • People don't give two thoughts to the information they give freely about themselves and their families 24/7, then wake up one day and wonder how the hell somebody has stolen their identity.


      Wake up people. The police can't stop criminals, it's up to the citizens.

  4. Proud new Marine Mom | July 5, 2012 at 8:58 pm |

    I totally agree. I am a new Marine Mom. Have been telling my kids for years that facebook is not good. Of course, according to them, I grew up with Fred, Wilma, Barney, Dino and the others peddling my car to school! If I want to tell my friends something I pick up the landline phone and tell them- what a concept! Newer is not always better!!

  5. LetsLobRob | July 5, 2012 at 9:11 pm |

    Food for thought. I'll be more careful.

  6. Some additional things to consider.

    1. You may want to limit your posts to friends-only. Some people don't realize that defaults can change on Facebook in particular with no real notice, and suddenly you're posting to the Public.

    2. You may want to actually limit your friends list to, you know, actual friends.

    3. Definitely worth cropping or fuzzing up some details on photos. You might not care if your friends see all of the details, but what if they decide to save the photo and post it elsewhere? I know all of my friends, but that doesn't mean I trust THEIR opsec sense–especially more distant relatives that I don't interact with much.

    Like it or not, social media is not likely to be going away any time soon. The problems have not really changed much, but the consequences hit much harder and much faster (with consequently less time to "undo" a mistake).

  7. Worked COMSEC during the sixties. Was able to get full crew member names, addresses, phone numbers, wives names, children's names, and recovered route of aircraft, all from air-ground communications during missions. It took a few weeks but the information was passed along on VHF/UHF comms from aircrews to ground controllers. This communication was not encrypted. Same as facebook today if you look at it openly. Too much information is available through seemingly innocent remarks.

  8. All good points, but you need a cup of decaf…

  9. if people would realize social media isn't the only thing in this world and waste their time on it, a good chuck of opsec release wounldn't be problem on the internet.

  10. Umm…I now know you live in the dc area, yr husband is in the AF (which he joined in 2002), you have a small business, are at home with the kids, etc. If I checked out yr blog, I could probably end figuring out specifics. Just sayin…

  11. I have to agree about this post. I have been sitting in this Iran communication interception station, located 3 miles from the Broder station 3210, just finishing my encryption transalation of the planned Dutch invasion of Iran that is scheduled in 3 months and four days at 4 am….and I thought "how many times has a mission been jeapordized by a wife just chatting about missing her husband serving in Iraq"? That woman should be banned from the POST! No more PX for you Mrs. Loose Lips.
    Anyways, just an old Army intelligence Officer from Ft. Bragg Alpha copmpany 1 nine nine brigade's opinion. Now I have to get back to work and support the overhead drone flying on the mexico border.

  12. When I was in the Navy, members serving aboard ship regularly would put decals indicating their squadron and/or ship, on their vehicles. People didn't see the problem because the decals were sold by the squadrons, ships and the Exchange.

    Don't let your kids put you squadron/ship/unit decals on school books or anything else they take out of the house. Also, children should be instructed to never say "mommy/daddy is deployed." They should be instructed to never give out their parent's unit or, what the parent does specifically. Additionally, parents need to closely monitor what their kids put on social media and what their kid's friends post.

    • Billy The second | July 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm |

      When a terrorist asks me if "those are your kids..durkha durkha???" I would just tell him "no. But could you drop them off at the mall?"
      That will always throw him off of my trail…. as I walk back onto post, showing the gate guards my I.D. He was none the wiser.

  13. It is recommended here not to military related stickers on your car, but they would have issues with me trying to get on base without my DOD sticker on my car.

    • They are no longer issuing the stickers at most installations. Now you should only need your ID at the gate. If it hasn't happened yet, it will very shortly. Then they will instruct you to detroy the decal on your car.

    • caroline deepsea | July 15, 2012 at 10:44 am |

      I think she is only referring to the cute stickers- Navy Wife w/ roses etc. good to know that stickers to get on base are going away-

  14. There's OpSec (power point type e.i. Perceived), and then there's OpSec (actual).
    Anyone who thinks a FB pic of me in uniform jeopardizes my life or our operations is severely misguided.
    I challenge everyone to think of an actual instance where FB pictures compromised any operations. I bet that only gross disclosure of actual operational data etc would / can pose a clear and present danger and that FaceBook pictures and public domain type comments on news feeds do not.
    So everybody: GET A GRIP and keep it real… learn to distinguish between OpSec and feel-good window dressing BS, like FB OpSec.
    Unless of course there are roving gangs of Jihadists casing you sons' school and/or scheming to kidnap your family out of the steets of Milwaukee.

  15. Hello. I'm in Baghdad. I kill the enemy for a living. We all know that, My family knows that, My neighbors know that, the gas station attendant back home knows that, my childhood friends know that, my church friends know that, The Enemy knows that.
    So,… Facebook OpSec? You're kidding right? All the Enemy needs to do is turn slighly to the left and look ahead 30 or 35 feet AND I'M THERE.
    what are they going to do? Google me and then show up at my house in Texas once I'm back home? Really? Because of FaceBook?
    Sometimes I wonder just what TV fueled fantasy world you folks live in.

    • Blue Falcon 1st ID. | July 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm |

      Oh now you've done it Soldier. The Sec. of Army will now make another NEW policy about Faebook OpSec over this stating "AR-FB101 Section two: At no time will a Soldier willingly, or unwillingly, through the communication of Digital means, respond to or acknowledge, the existence of a military located in the Middle Eastern operation zones, in or on a digital web page public, or personal, forum, discussing the operational security procedures during the use of a book,face (one each), while wearing authorized issued military uniform, or wether willingly or unwillingly, naked at His/or Her desk".

  16. Action169 | July 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm |

    You cannot be any more blatant in your disregard for proper OPSEC than to lay your personal whims desires or others desires before the Operational concerns of those serving, by utilizing, endorsing any Social Media mechanism not controlled/*Restricted in Use by the DoD period. Even then you as an individual have to read/sign and or acknowledge you understand these *Restrictions and that you will abide by Known Secure policies and seek to maintain awareness in Safeguarding policies as they evolve.

    If you choose to Serve in the DoD, then you choose to adhere to those policies set forth. Any other inconveniences these may incur come with the Job? If anybody ever told you a great Operational Security Program revolves around how well its members willingly promote circumvention to their own personal benefit, I would say to them you just described a large majority of the Military populace at large.

  17. Action169 | July 12, 2012 at 2:40 pm |

    OPSEC hmmm That’s not me? I'm not SECRET Squirrel, I'm in the rear with the GEAR, or I'm just a co-worker of a Spouse who is in the MILITARY. What Info could I possible have that could be unknowingly Used (EXPLOITED) in the wrong way?

    If it’s not specific, If it is truly Generic, If it cannot Identify, If it cannot be linked, pieced or networked with other correlating Information. Then and only then is it worthy of doing what its intent was. = Pass info along to those who have a Need to Know, not a desire to Know, and keep it in context that cannot be construed as Damaging or Aiding a Foe/Adversaries/Criminals ability to hinder/hurt personnel or the operational capability of the unit/command.

  18. Action169 | July 12, 2012 at 2:41 pm |

    Any other misinterpretation of this is nothing more than someone passing their personal judgments and putting their interest above the Oath they swore to be able to join the Ranks of the DoD service members.

    Think before you Speak/Blog/Photo-share/E-mail. Social Media platforms are not an aid; they are a bad idea for the DoD as a whole.

    Keep your Social Media and personal pursuits in the Civie world. When you leave/get out + understand there is no statute of limitations on OPSEC VIOLATION even when the info has been De-Classified, if operations are on-going. You still possess the ability to harm with your actions even when you’re done with your DoD service.

    Be safe and think of others (Your fellow DoD service members) first before yourself. Is their safety worth your inability to be a Quiet Professional?


    One of the bad guys on our side.

  19. husband or wife? don't blame it all on the women there are husbands not in uniform doing the same thing

  20. Something to make it easier for some people to understand. The enemy, even though they may be little more than animals, are not ignorant. It is like a jigsaw puzzle. One little piece doesn't really show you anything but if you collect enough pieces and put them together then you can see the whole picture.

    As an example to us all, after one exercise we had all packed up and were ready to roll, then they sent counter intel through. They came back and from the information they were able to glean from little post-its and the like left behind basically told us our unit, who was in charge and half the people in our unit.

  21. civilian spouse | July 16, 2012 at 11:54 am |

    What some need to realize is the RIDICULOUS number of CIVILIANS serving overseas in some capacity…and the fact that CIVILIAN SPOUSES, for the most part, get NO OPSEC training/info…
    It is all info that many, unless coached/schooled/informed on this stuff, would not think of.

    -a civilian spouse who was not given any kind of schooling on this stuff.

    • There is a class that military spouses are supposed to/ really should take at their husband's duty station. The class covers all of the OPSEC information.

  22. JUST BE SMART IF IT DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT IT PROBABLY ISN'T! Everything stays on the internet now and can be traced. Down to finding you in your bedrooms from your Facebook profile picture if you take pictures with your cellphones and post on Facebook! Google location. Scary

  23. Take an INTAC class. That'll help, especially if you're overseas or in a major U.S. city (or, heck, any city with a big military base these days). For all you know, it's your post about your habits at your favorite coffee shop that'll get you attacked.

  24. “Do not post when your husband is coming home.” ………. Should be “Do not post when your husband or your wife………” There are plenty of ladies in the military too….. :)

  25. I have a question…my husband and I just found out we are set to PCS to Texas. He told me I can't post on facebook that we are moving to texas this summer because of OPSEC. Is this true?

  26. I was thinking the same thing!

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