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Operational Security

Questions and Answers with the Regimental Webmaster

"Hey, how come the last names of deployed soldiers aren't on the website anymore?"

I was approached on March 19th (actually, three separate times, by two MWOs and a Lieutenant Colonel) and very politely asked to review the website content. The Calgary Highlanders are a very high profile unit. They are the only infantry regiment in Calgary, and currently one of the strongest Militia units of any type in Western Canada in terms of numbers, and ability to provide trained soldiers to operational taskings. We are therefore also notable for having an impressive number of soldiers deployed overseas. The website has drawn the attention of Army leadership both near and far over the past few years. I haven't reported that on the site, as frankly, it seems immodest. Calgary Highlanders have, I think, toiled in quiet dignity as indeed is the tradition for Canadian soldiers in general. Nonetheless, it has been gratifying to receive compliments on the site from highly placed and distinguished soldiers from Edmonton to Ottawa and beyond, serving and retired. They pale in comparison to the kudos that rightly belong to the soldiers of the Regiment whose real work, in the field and on deployment, continue to honour the sacrifices of those that went before, most notably at places like Kitcheners' Wood or the Walcheren Causeway.

The webmaster has been extraordinarily lucky to have been granted an immense amount of freedom in his duties and responsibilities. I've worked under the auspices of three different Commanding Officers, two Regimental Majors, and two Regimental Sergeants Major. I've been very careful to ensure that the unit's welfare, and that of its soldiers, has come first, and with the guidance of my superiors, I hope I've been able to balance that with the needs and desires of the Regimental Family. That means not just the soldiers, but the association, the Ladies Auxiliary, the Museum, the Kit Shop, and the spouses, sweethearts, children, parents and friends of troops serving in the unit, all eager for news of what their Highlander is doing. The website is not a lecture platform for the webmaster (as this page is becoming, for which I beg the reader's indulgence) but instead the site is, truly, by, for, and about The Calgary Highlanders.

Concerns have been raised in the past about Operational Security. It is not hard to deduce why. Canada, with its allies in NATO and its partners in the Afghan National Army, is participating in a war against global terrorism. Canada's burden in that war has made itself felt in the Regiment, most keenly among those who have served in Afghanistan. One of our Highlanders was wounded by small arms fire there; while another soldier, in our sister Regiment in the Armouries, lost his life in the war zone. Literally dozens have rotated through or are serving now directly in theatre in a variety of roles. Friends and relatives at home and abroad are keen to read about what they are doing. It is possible, however remote, that there are those who would use information gleaned on this site to do harm to them or their families here at home. That is something that would be hard for any of us to live with, if it came to pass.

"So the Army is making you take the names off?"

The Army is sensitive to the needs of its soldiers and recognizes the importance of families and electronic communication between them. There have been no orders to remove content from the site, beyond the CANFORGEN reminding all soldiers of their duties with regards to electronic communications. Canadian soldiers are expected to take responsibility for their own actions. That includes the soldier who is writing this. I have asked privately, and will now ask publicly, for all soldiers who are sending in items and photos from overseas to please check with their section commanders to ensure what they are sending won't violate operational security.

And besides, you should be emailing or phoning your mom anyway, not making her read about you on the website. So go and call her, already.

"Do you want our stuff from overseas or not?"

My Company Sergeant Major sat down with me tonight and was almost apologetic. His words were to the effect of "Please tell the troops not to stop sending you their updates and photos. I love reading about what the troops are doing." Everyone does. The Regimental Museum and Archives can't tell you how valuable the information is. Soldiers continually stop me on the Armouries floor and tell me how much they enjoy reading about their friends overseas. So please - we know you are busy actually soldiering, and when not soldiering, you have spouses and sweethearts and friends to correspond with, but anything you can send to us for wider distribution - is like gold to us. Keep the names and places in - they can be edited out here, and the Museum will want to know the full details for storage in the archives. You may not realize it, but you are making history, and 20 years or 30 years or 100 years from now, people will be genuinely interested in knowing everything about you, from what your middle name was to what colour of underwear you wore. If you think I'm kidding, I'll show you the section on underwear I included in my book on Second World War uniforms.

"But the names are in the newspaper anyway"

It's been policy not to report the names of wounded soldiers who are returning to duty in theatre and as far as is known, the civilian press has kept to that policy. Regardless of what the civilian press does with the names of serving soldiers, there is a creed dating back to Project Apollo. When the United States was involved in preparing spacecraft and astronauts for the landings on the moon in the late 1960s, the mammoth undertaking involved thousands of people in hundreds of small industries across the nation, which were completely interlinked and interdependent on each other. One small flaw in any of a thousand subsystems of a spacecraft, spacesuit or other item of equipment could have catastrophic consequences not just for an unfortunate crewmember but literally for the entire space program and the prospect of man walking on the moon in the 20th Century. The dedication felt among workers at the various assembly plants, from items as complex as the Saturn V rocket, to those as seemingly insignificant as the people who made the gloves for the astronauts, was expressed in a simple credo: "Something may go wrong on any of the missions, for any number of reasons, but if it does - I can rest assured in the knowledge that it won't be because of me."

I suppose I feel the same way.

Michael Dorosh, CD
Corporal
Regimental Webmaster


The information on this website is intended for a specific audience within a defined geographic area and therefore all content appears in English only.