Gen. Robert B. “Abe” Abrams walked into the crowd last week at Fort Benning’s McGinnis-Wickam Hall as he addressed the Maneuver Warfighter Conference.
The commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command with four stars on his chest was looking for a certain major — or at least that is what he thought at the time — armed with a cellphone, quick-twitch thumb and an opinion or two. The man he was looking for was 2nd Lt. Luke Miller, who is easy to find. Just go to Twitter and type in @GovtIssueJoe.
“I understand there is a major out there live tweeting,” Abrams said.
How did @GovtIssueJoe respond? “Did he just talk about me live-tweeting him?” Miller tweeted.
Roger that, lieutenant.
The general wasn’t mad. He was just being realistic. Abrams pointed out that he was up at 5 that morning reading the tweets from the day before. That is when @GovtIssueJoe hit his radar.
The son of famed Gen. and former Army Chief of Staff Creighton W. Abrams Jr. was just pointing out this wasn’t his father’s Army without actually saying that. Last week, a number of soldiers were live tweeting the Warfighter Conference. Abrams’ point: “We need to pay attention to social media, and read. Especially read. That’s how to learn how to think.”
It wasn’t just young soldiers like Luke Miller who were recording what the generals were saying.
Maj. Gen. Scott Miller, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, joined Twitter just after the conference started.
“The first time I ever tweeted was about an hour into the conference after I started a conversation on Facebook,” Miller said. “I did that on purpose. I understand Facebook, but I don’t understand some of the other social media. I talked to one of my guys and he said, ‘Hey, sir, tweeting is where it’s happening.’”
Imagine a soldier having that conversation with Gen. Patton. This is a different kind of Army and a different time. One must understand and use social media. The enemies are using it. Why would you not want soldiers on social media?
“There is an awful lot to be learned on social media — good and bad,” Maj. Gen. Miller said. “It gives you an idea of the perceptions and undertones going on out there.”
There are ways to use social media that make sense. As women were working their way through Ranger School, critics were pounding away with information — a lot of it misinformation — on Facebook. At some point, those in the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade began to fight back. Maj. Jimmy Hathaway, the brigade’s executive officer, took to Facebook to challenge the critics with the facts from someone on the inside.
His post went viral.
Unfortunately, we live in a time where if people say something enough on Facebook or Twitter, it becomes fact.
Some on the Army’s top brass have realized that and have begun to march to the cadence of the times, and that’s a good thing.
Contact Chuck Williams, senior reporter, at firstname.lastname@example.org