The Power of Information

JTF-Haiti aggressively and effectively used social media platforms, such as Facebook, to convey messages and visual images to its audience on a daily basis, often in near real time. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Adam Hallmark/11th PAD

JTF-Haiti aggressively and effectively used social media platforms, such as Facebook, to convey messages and visual images to its audience on a daily basis, often in near real time. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Adam Hallmark/11th PAD

By Maj. Gen. Simeon Trombitas

Trombitas is serving in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as the commander of Joint Task Force-Haiti. He is also the commander of United States Army South in San Antonio, Texas.

For those of us who have some years of experience behind us, we can remember a life without cellular phones, the Internet, email, Facebook and smart phone applications. Although this life may have been simpler and quieter, we all find ourselves thrust into the high speed world of the information age. Most individuals either jump on board or get left behind as we are bombarded with information nearly every second of every day and night.

The power of the information age became very evident in the first hours after the earthquake in Haiti. Within minutes, the entire world was able to see images and stories of the devastation that hit Haiti on Jan. 12. As a result of this timely information, organizations around the world converged in Haiti to provide any amount of assistance they could offer as part of the international humanitarian relief effort. With our technological advances and platforms to project stories and images, it was possible for everyone to be a communicator and send information to the masses within seconds.

Some people, trapped under rubble, were able to communicate their status and location to rescuers. From individual messages to mass media distribution, our ability to rapidly communicate painted a picture of Haiti for the world to see. With this in mind, Joint Task Force-Haiti aggressively and effectively used social media platforms to convey the messages and visual images of the hard work and dedication the service members on the ground were putting forth. Throughout the operation, these outlets were one of the primary tools to get the story out within seconds to more than 5,200 Facebook followers and for the world to see. As an example of the speed of information, Joint Task Force-Haiti personnel were on the ground and transmitting through Twitter and Facebook real time images of the first responders opening the airfield and seaport, service members safe guarding food distribution points, military medical personnel providing comfort to the Haitian people and internally displaced persons arriving at one of the new resettlement camps outside Port-au-Prince. Additionally, the result of the power that images and messages communicate can also be seen when Time Magazine selected a selfless and skilled Airman as one of the top 100 influential people of 2010.

Navy Capt. Jim Wink, former lead engineer, JTF-Haiti, is interviewed by a news reporter April 1.  It is vitally important for leaders at all levels to embrace the media in order to get our story out to the public. U.S. Navy Photo by Chief Mass Communiations Specialist James G. Pinsky/NAVFAC

Navy Capt. Jim Wink, former lead engineer, JTF-Haiti, is interviewed by a news reporter April 1. It is vitally important for leaders at all levels to embrace the media in order to get our story out to the public. U.S. Navy Photo by Chief Mass Communiations Specialist James G. Pinsky/NAVFAC

I have been witness to a new generation of leaders in the military and also a change of mindset. Where commanders were once disinterested in the presence of news media, leaders are now embracing all facets of the media to get our story out to the public. We now operate in an open and transparent manner that allows the American people to see the many great things our service men and women are accomplishing around the world.

As our technology advances, it is not only our leaders who are communicating messages but also the individual Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have the ability to reach out to the world through cyberspace in an instant. Every United States military service member can now influence public opinion and the way people view our services. Inherently, every individual becomes a strategic communicator for our military services. Responsible leaders and individuals are then charged to accurately portray their points of view allowing for more depth in coverage.

Using the technology available, the power of the messages we communicate should not be underestimated or misused. The words and stories of our service members are more visible today than they were decades ago. This is not because the stories are any better or more important, but simply because they are more available to more individuals than the stories of those who served before us. I am thankful that our service members in the U.S. Armed Forces have the opportunity to share their experiences and become strategic communicators for the nation we are sworn to defend. We can now truly take the lead in keeping the public informed about the strength of our Armed Forces and the people who serve the United States of America.

Stay Connected:
Visit Joint Task Force-Haiti’s Facebook page
Visit Joint Task Force-Haiti’s Flickr site
Visit Joint Task Force Haiti’s Twitter site

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