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Connecting Military Families with Social Media

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I was honored to be invited on an embark mission with the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson. Fifteen bloggers and media professionals were taken on a 24-hour excursion out to sea. While the planes and aircraft carrier were remarkable, the most important part for me was meeting the sailors and learning about their life in the Navy. As a writer and media professional, I was interested to learn how sailors stayed connected with their families and friends.

Before I left on my trip, I tweeted that I would be on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson. I received a tweet from a man whose brother was on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson. I found out that his brother's name is Lt. Commander Smokin' Joe. When I was in our briefing aboard the ship, I mentioned to one of the sailors on the media team that I was looking for Smokin' Joe and they said they would see if we could find him on our tour but that there were thousands of people on the ship. While touring the ship, we went into a room with huge monitors where the crew worked on air traffic control for the approximately 120 flights on and off the ship each day. And guess who started speaking? Smokin' Joe! I was able to meet him, say hello from his brother, and take a photo to tweet to his brother. Lt. Commanader Joseph Ruzicka is a Radar Intercept Officer and Weapons Systems Officer in the F-14 Tomcat and F-18 Hornet with over 17 years in the U.S. Navy.

I learned that sailors are allowed 15 minutes per day in the computer lab to email and be on the Internet. When we went into the lab most of the sailors were on Facebook catching up with their families. While this is quicker than a letter, it still isn't much connection with the outside world.

Enter the U.S.S. Carl Vinson Media Department. This crew of 30 sailors works long hours taking photos, managing social media and creating entertainment for the entire crew. They have a design team that creates graphics for their social media presence, and the ship newspaper that they publish twice a week. They run a huge print shop for all print media including inspirational and informative posters that they post around the ship. The true value of media was seen as this crew helps the ship communicate better with their own shipmates, the outside social media world that follows them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as sharing images and stories from the ship for the friends and families to stay up-to-date with their sailors. The photojournalists on the crew are the first on deck when an unknown ship is spotted at sea and provide important data to the Intelligence Department. Teamwork was evident throughout the ship.

I'm truly inspired and grateful for the hard work of all the sailors on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson and learned so much about what our Navy does and what a day in the life of a sailor looks like. It's wonderful that the Navy supports this level of communication and embraces social media to connect Americans with our military and sailors with their loved ones. Here's a 100 Faces video they made showing sailors all over the ship.

I'd like to acknowledge Steve Fiebing, Deputy Public Affairs Officer for the Commander, Naval Air Forces - Pacific, U.S. Pacific Fleet and his staff for his invitation and their coordination of the embark as well as Dennis Hall of Avere Group for my nomination to the Navy for this embark and Guy Kawasaki for his support of the embark program and nomination for consideration.

If you're inspired, check out the U.S.S. Carl Vinson's social media, give them a like and a follow or say hello. I know they'd appreciate it!

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