- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Pax River has the social media bug.
An admiral in charge of thousands of employees doubles as a blogger. Another Tweets. Public affairs officers are Facebooking, and uploading videos to YouTube.
“It’s an easy fast way to get the word out to people who are following you,” said Doug Abbotts, a spokesman for the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division.
While younger audiences tend to favor social media, it works with most folks at Pax River, Abbotts said, because so many people are at their desks, in front of computers, rather than on the floor, fixing parts or delivering goods — the case at some military bases.
Rear Adm. Randy Mahr has reached out to those workers through the NAWCAD Commander’s Blog, which publishes weekly. It’s also visible to the public at www.navair.navy.mil/nawcad. Blog topics often urge readers to consider when it’s time to pat each other on the back and when it’s time to step up their game.
“When a co-worker is ostracized from meetings based on gender, or subjected to comments about their looks, and these comments are condoned by those present, we have a problem,” Mahr wrote last month. “One voice can say we are all in the arena together and we won’t tolerate that attitude.”
The post led to a conversation with members of the workforce about feeling included, or excluded, and how to earn respect. One writer responded that “layers of management” had made her feel like her opinion was buried in the politics.
Mahr replied, “This kind of discussion is why I wanted to start this blog in the first place ... I absolutely agree with you that some of the best ideas out there are not going to come from the people sitting in offices with doors on them.”
In the next blog post, Mahr wrote, “I was talking with a retired Master Chief this week about his daughter who is attending a college where a professor has a very low opinion of the military. It frustrates her to hear him make statements that she knows, from her father’s life, aren’t true. She knows men and women in uniform serve to answer a great calling and without people like her father, the world would be a different and more dangerous place.”
The Chief of Naval Information gave Mahr special recognition for his work.
Vice Adm. David Dunaway just started in September but he’s already Tweeting. “Congratulations AT1 Wesley Meredith and YN2 Joseph Traw — NAVAIR’s Sailors of the Quarter. Well done!” Or, “Two great town halls in Pax yesterday and two more today. Excellent questions from the crowd.”
Social media is best used when writers want mass engagement and feedback, and for the information to be shared, said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello, a spokesperson in Virginia who has helped the Navy shape news coverage and social media efforts. “You have to know your audience. You have to know what your goal is.”
Obviously, admirals can’t have conversations with each employee. But through their writing, they have the potential to reach each person at a command, Servello said.
NAVAIR Facebook posts include photos of the day, details on aircraft, graduations and special awards. And videos, which often highlight technology, like unmanned aerial vehicles and the F-35 fighter jet, garnered more than a million views on YouTube.
The Navy began to heavily use social media as a communication tool around 2009, Servello said. Since then, sailors and Marines in the Atlantic to the Pacific, the horn of Africa and the Middle East, have plugged into Navy social media. So have their loved ones and folks who are just interested in all things Navy.
Navy spouses took part in a social media campaign to protest plans this year regarding an Enlisted Review Board process that would force about 3,000 sailors to “separate” from the Navy. Facebook accounts, such as “ERB Sailors,” now post job openings and offer a support group without boundaries.
Social media also provided a sounding board for military family members, who complained when a ship held crew members onboard at least 13 hours as officials attempted to collect urine samples for drug testing, according to the Navy Times. About 2,100 sailors waited so long that cars parked on the pier in Newport News, Va., were towed and evening plans took a turn for the worse. Navy spouses posted on the ship’s Facebook page, messages such as, “Thank you USS Lincoln for ruining my Friday and anniversary.”
With a more positive outlook, Servello, a Leonardtown High School graduate originally from Hollywood, said he expects Navy social media to play a growing role in sharing information. Soon, he expects the first unmanned aerial vehicle will fly off an an aircraft carrier and that social media could have a role in sharing that information.
He encourages Navy social media users to keep security in mind, never providing anything an enemy could use against them. But, he said, those are similar types of challenges the fleet faced when phones and email first came to ships.
“I look at it as an opportunity,” Servello said. There are hundreds of thousands of spokespeople out there talking about work that’s under way. “It helps tell the story of the Navy.”