After-hours on any given workday, scores of young soldiers plug into a world that would have left earlier generations scratching their heads.
They Tweet on Twitter.com and flit from Facebook to Flickr to YouTube. They are, as the late comedian George Carlin once put it, uplinking, downloading, cutting-edge multi-taskers who can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.
And they’re fueling a revolution in how the Pentagon connects with troops and the public.
From the front lines of Iraq, where Army Gen. Ray Odierno posts daily updates to his Facebook page, to Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Ariz., which posts video greetings to deployed troops, America’s military is infiltrating the world of online social networking. ”With our younger soldiers, especially, once they’re off the Army clock, they’re attached to some form of electronic device,” said Tanja Linton, a spokeswoman for Fort Huachuca. “They’ve got their cell phones, their iPods, their laptops; they’re texting, Tweeting, surfing – and sometimes they are doing it all at the same time.”
Odierno, the commander in charge of military efforts in Iraq, has close to 4,000 “fans” on his page at Facebook.com.
His site proclaims, among other things, that the four-star general is a fan of Motown, and that his favorite films include Animal House and Sleepless in Seattle.
Stories referenced on the general’s site range from a report on efforts to revive Iraq’s air force to an article about an overseas jazz festival that featured Iraqi and American musicians.
The U.S. Army launched its own Facebook page April 16 and has more than 17,000 fans so far.
“It puts a human face on the Army that you might not otherwise see,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, head of the service’s new online and special media division.
The move to social media has been somewhat unsettling at the Pentagon, with its tradition of top-down authority, he said.