How One Special Forces Sergeant Is Using Social Media To Make PAOs Obsolete

Community
U.S. Marines attached to the Quantico Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy (SNCOA) take a selfie before taking off on a SNCOA monument run in Washington D.C., Sept. 21, 2016.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cristian L. Ricardo.

In today’s social media world, we see service members sharing more and more of their daily professional lives online. With the proliferation of sites like U.S. Army W.T.F. Moments, the general public gets a glimpse into the lives of everyday Americans who serve their country. Whether these posts be humorous, heroic, or just stupid and dangerous, they are out there and the trend is not going away.


Within this trend there has been a movement to highlight real professionalism of our military members on social media. Many sites and even more military members are using their platforms to highlight their professionalism. For example, within the special operations community, many service members have taken to social media to post videos on marksmanship, medical care, physical fitness, and equipment selection and maintenance.

These posts have the effect of reaching out to thousands and millions of followers and users, expanding the voice of a single service member who previously may have been simply relegated to telling only his friends what pistol to buy or what is the most effective way to transition from your rifle to a sidearm during range drills. 

The new social media platforms are important. These videos, and the men and women who are willing to share their thoughts, are opening up new avenues of communication between civilian and military members. These avenues help to build trust, maintain positive relationships, and help our military communities become more relatable to the outside world. Additionally, we could see positive effects on recruiting the next generation of an all-volunteer force if military members show the outside world what their standards-based methods are all about and how their lives are shaped positively by that belief system.

I recently sat down with one member of the special operations community, a Special Forces NCO who works at a premiere Army marksmanship school, to get his thoughts on why he shares his shooting videos online and why he thinks it is important to spread a message of professionalism and good marksmanship within the ranks.

Sgt. 1st Class “Diggler” shares his professional videos online. He mainly shares content concerning marksmanship, however he has ventured into physical fitness and combative videos. In this regard, he is one of thousands of service members who are taking part in this social media communications revolution — an army of makeshift public affair personnel who don’t need a MOS or duty title to tell a story.

Diggler explains that he shares his videos online because he was “fortunate enough to be hand-selected to be a combat rifle and pistol marksmanship and tactics instructor.” He stressed that it wasn’t because he could simply shoot well, but because he could teach and mentor. Shooting is also his hobby and in this regard posting videos online allows him to further his hobby and continue to teach and mentor to a larger audience.

Related: Is Your Social Media Presence Working Against You? »

He went on to stress that for non-military viewers, most “have a limited to basic understanding of what is entailed in weapons safety and operation.” He can use the videos to educate and demonstrate the importance of safety and operation, furthering his mentoring work.

U.S. Army Secretary Eric Fanning, center, takes a selfie with Soldiers from U.S. Army Central and the 77th Combat Aviation Brigade in a hangar Sept. 19 at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Hubbard.

“Most public gun ranges forbid basic skills, such as drawing and engaging from the holster or multiple engagements,” Diggler said. “How does one truly understand the weapon system without being afforded the opportunity to properly train? It instills a false confidence. My videos show a basic capability I feel should be a standard if one decides to carry as a citizen or is required to be armed as a profession.”

Diggler feels that the military does not place enough emphasis on marksmanship training, though it depends upon the unit. But that is where his videos can step in: to fill a gap for all.

The Army's marksmanship skills deficit is mostly with support military occupational specialties, not combat ones, Diggler believes.

“Yes, most of these units do a fine job maintaining a unit standard of rifle qualification,” Diggler said, “but qualification is not training. Usually when a unit has met its task obligation, it moves on to other more pertinent things involving that unit’s purpose.”

On many of Diggler’s deployments, support attachments became gunners, security details, and attachments to his Special Forces team — some even earning valor awards for their work in combat.

Diggler shares his videos to promote a professionalism of arms within the military community but to the outside community, as well. In this way, he is shaping the military’s narrative on what a soldier is and helping his fellow brothers and sisters in arms build their professionalism to higher levels.

From left to right: Naval Special Warfare Operator First Class Eddie Gallagher, Army 1Lt. Clint Lorance, and Army Special Forces Maj. Mathew Golsteyn

On Friday, President Donald Trump intervened in the cases of three U.S. service members accused of war crimes, granting pardons to two Army soldiers accused of murder in Afghanistan and restoring the rank of a Navy SEAL found guilty of wrongdoing in Iraq.

While the statements coming out of the Pentagon regarding Trump's actions have been understandably measured, comments from former military leaders and other knowledgable veterans help paint a picture as to why the president's Friday actions are so controversial.

Read More Show Less

A former Soviet submarine that became a tourist attraction docked adjacent to the Queen Mary in Long Beach is expected to be sold soon to an anonymous buyer, with plans to remove the rusting sub by mid-May.

The 48-year-old Russian Foxtrot-class submarine, known as the Scorpion, had hosted paying visitors for 17 years before it fell into such disrepair that it became infested with raccoons and was closed to the public in 2015.

Read More Show Less

Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.

The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.

During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.

"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."

"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."

Read More Show Less
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (Reuters photo)

Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.

Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.

Read More Show Less
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith (Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation's third highest award for valor this week for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, the service announced Monday.

Read More Show Less