15. April 2010 · Comments Off on More of What I Saw at the Milblogger Conference · Categories: Ain't That America?, Air Force, General, Military, Veteran's Affairs

Milblogging – alas, I have had to explain that concept to a number of my purely civilian contacts over the last few weeks. Just a plain old military blogger. A blogger on active duty, a veteran, a family member or someone just interested in aspects of the military life, all of whom are blogging about their experiences and life in the military, around the military, or as the military touches on their life. To mainstream America, since the end of the draft, this is terra incognita. If all one knows about the life military is what can be gleaned from current movies, television and popular culture, then there might just as well be dragons out there over the edge in DOD land. Another language, of slang and shorthand, of instantly understood references, certain subtle habits of manners and bearing, the quiet display of badges, rings, patches, souvenir coins or tattoos – all of which serve as tells to other residents (or past residents) of DOD land. Most pure civilians usually miss the ‘tells’ – which is why fake veterans will fool them practically all the time.

So, I have been a milblogger since 16 August, 2002, which is the Dark Ages of blogging, practically. I was invited to join this blog when it was still called Sgt. Stryker’s Daily Brief, at a time when there was a sudden and increased national interest in the military experience during the ramp-up to the Iraq War. SSDB was one of only a handful of milblogs carried on the Instapundit blog-roll. I had just barely discovered this newfangled internet thingy, I had a background in public affairs, wanted an outlet for my own writing . . . and my daughter was a Marine, heading towards a deployment in Kuwait and eventually, Iraq in the spring and summer of 2003. Comparing notes at the Milblog Conference, I discovered that the date of my first blog-post predated everyone elses’ by at least six months.

That entry is included, for your benefit, as a historical document –

Sgt. Mom’s Ancient Tech Story:

So the new colonel commanding was getting a tour of the AFRTS station, from the Station Manager. The colonel looks through the soundproofed glass window into the radio studio, and there is the on-duty DJ, stripped to his underwear, sitting cross-legged on the turntable*, going round and round and round. The colonel, slightly-bug-eyed, turns to the Station Manager and demands
“What the %#@&&& is he doing?
The Station Manager shrugs and says,
“Thirty-three and a third.” **

(footnotes appended for those under the age of 30ish)
* Probably a heavy, 16″ Gates turntable. They were used to play “records” also called ETs, or Electrical Transcriptions, which in the days when the only body parts being pierced were ears, were 16 or 14 inches across.
** Revolutions per minute. 16-inch records were played at 78 RPMs, 14-inch records (which replaced them) at 33 1/3

Yeah, I’ve gone a long way since then, although the audience laughed their hummm-hums off, when I re-told it at the conference. A good few didn’t even need the footnotes – but don’t let that lead you to assume that all attending were old fogies . . . I met a trio of earnest young college students, two veterans and one heading military-wards. A bit of an interview to follow about them, over the next two days. (Look, am I a public utility? I produce good bloggy ice-cream when I can!) There was also this young lady present, who is not only extraordinarily pleasant and patriotic, but possesses a charmingly retro aesthetic sense – as well as a sense of duty. (No, I never minded girlie pinups – as long as I could admire the equivalent and aesthetically pleasing male form . . .)

But enough of the wander down blogging-memory lane, more observations of the 5th Annual Milblogger Conference. It is the very first one which I have attended, which made for a curious experience. I have ‘known’ some of the other bloggers nearly as long as I’ve blogged and consider them as friends and fellow veterans, but this was the first time I ever met them face to face. I tend to think of them first as they named themselves with their original nom du blog – Greyhawk, Blackfive, Baldilocks – rather than their given names. Most of the early milbloggers chose to do so, not wanting to put absolutely everything out there.

Another curiosity – I’d guess that a little under a half of the conference attendees were women: fair number of veterans, or DOD civilian employees, some from various military-oriented charitable organizations, or military spouses. There were present, though, a fair number of active-duty men with the high-and tight haircut – that which makes them look as if they had shaved their heads entirely, and then parked a small, short-furred rodent on top. On the first panel of the conference – a selection of early bloggers, three of us were Air Force or AF veterans (Baldi, me, and Greyhawk – all NCOs), one Army veteran – Blackfive, and one Marine officer – “Taco”. (His last name is Bell.) This distribution drew some comment from the audience: I have no explanation for this. Another very early blogger was a Reserve Navy officer, Lt. Smash. My purely amateur and scientific wild-ass guess about this distribution is something along the lines of the Air Force and the Navy being more technically oriented, and drawing in a more middle-class and educated recruit. Another curiosity is that four of us have written or edited books, and “Taco” is planning to write one as soon as he retires and can uncork his best stories. Eh – one of my best-received one-liners: blogging is a gateway drug. (Did I mention that I do have a mad compulsion to entertain and inform? Laugher from an audience – manna to the starving!) More to follow, including how I had the neck ask a blunt question of a 4-star and to tell Garry Trudeau about the newspaper clipping that has been on the front of my refrigerator for almost eight years now – I promise. Real life and bills to pay will interfere. Really.

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