By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (May 13, 2010) -- The Army accession command is releasing this week "version 3" of their blog, "Army Strong Stories." What they need now are more Soldiers to sign up to populate the site with real-world insight and perspective about the Army.
"Our efforts are to try to have bloggers and Soldiers tell their stories -- there are such wonderful, rich, content-filled stories about what the American Army is doing," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander, Army Accessions Command, during a media teleconference, May 12.
The general's primary concern, he said, is to shed light on the Army so America's youth have the real story about what happens with those in uniform.
"This is not a pitch -- this is an awareness," he said, regarding the intent of the site. "This is not necessarily a recruiting tool -- it is a tool to help tell stories."
Freakley said recruiters often talk about the future and about possibilities with the young people who visit their offices. The "Army Strong Stories" website will contain stories about what is happening now.
"The recruiter talks about if you join the Army," Freakley said. But the bloggers on the site "are telling their Army story. They are not talking about what might happen, they are talking about what is happening -- and I think the people ought to hear that. There is always friction in the Army, and not every day is sunshine and roses. People need to understand that. I think it helps with the expectations."
The Army uses websites like armystrongstories.com, and commercial online resources such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook to make its messages available to an audience that was born into a world already using the internet. Those individuals, Freakley said, are comfortable communicating online, are comfortable using the tools that are available online, and many times are making decisions based on the information and opinions they've been exposed to while online.
"We know that over 49 percent of the U.S. internet users 18-24 years old, share advice offline and in person, based on information they read online," Freakley said. "They want that verifiable information about what they are looking at to make a decision. And what could be a more significant decision than to join the U.S. Army -- to serve our nation, especially in a time of conflict?"
Right now, there's about 166 bloggers participating on the site, Freakley said. So far, about 800 entries have been posted -- each is available for comment by visitors. The site gets nearly 30,000 visitors a month.
Freakley said he hopes more Soldiers will come to the site and sign up to tell their stories. The site, he said, is not really edited or screened. Soldiers are free to post what they want, their own perspectives -- he only said that when Soldiers post they remember operational security and the Army values.
He said getting Soldiers unvarnished stories out to the public is good for the Army -- and telling those stories can also be good for the Soldiers.
"When people hear what you've done in combat, especially our younger Soldiers, and then talk to you about that in the comments that are posted back -- I think there's a healing that goes on,' he said. "It validates what people are doing."