When it comes to Personal Security (PERSEC), there seems to be some confusion about what it is and how it can effect a Marine and their families on a daily basis. So we're going to attempt to clear it up.
First of all, PERSEC is similar but is NOT OPSEC. OPSEC deals more with the day-to-day operations going on in the Marine Corps. This can be for anything from deployment dates to weapons serial numbers to troop movements.
On the other hand, there is PERSEC. PERSEC deals more with each individual's personal security and how they safeguard their own personal information. We will talk about how it relates to deployments, social media and how we can better protect ourselves from giving up our personal information.
The Marine Corps does not enforce PERSEC regulations as strictly as they do for OPSEC. However, that does not make PERSEC less important than OPSEC. If safety in general is important to you then you should be taking PERSEC seriously.
PERSEC on Deployment
PERSEC deals with the protection of personal information of Marines and their family members. This information would be rank, addresses, any information about members of the family, etc. While Marines are deployed they are briefed over and over about keeping their information protected from the enemy. Families should ensure they have a good idea of what information is vital to protect as well. When you post pictures of your loved ones in their uniform, consider blurring out their name and rank. The enemy can use identifiable features on a Marine's uniform and find information on them and their families faster than you might think. When a Marine receives a letter or package from their loved ones they will mark out the names and addresses with a sharpie, even though they are most likely going to burn the boxes and envelopes anyway. This way there is little to no doubt that their loved ones will not be put in harm's way. Again, families should consider doing the same. When your Marine sends a package or letter back home most will want to post a picture of the item and post it online. If you are going to do this make sure that you are not taking a picture of the name and address, or any other items that could give the enemy any idea where your Marine, or you could be. Never assume that someone can"t find out information on you from even the most subtle of hints in a picture.
PERSEC on Social Media
Social media is where the majority of violations of PERSEC and OPSEC occur. From pictures posted to "checking in" on Facebook, there are too many instances where Marines and their families will put themselves in unnecessary positions only because they "just had to post it." It is too common that we see spouses post online that they are home by themselves while their Marine is in the field/deployed. The people who need to know that information would already know that. The 350 friends you have on Facebook that you never talk to anymore don't need to know that you are home by yourself. Not to mention all the predators out there that monitor social media looking for the right person to give away too much information to make things that much easier on them. Information like that does not need to be out there for everyone to see. When it comes to "checking in" on Facebook, by doing this you are letting others out there know that your home is empty and up for grabs. Or you are letting them know where you are so that they could follow you home when you leave. Again, this is unnecessary information you are putting out on the internet. Nobody needs to know where you and your family are at any moment.
Be Aware of Who You're Talking To
It is pretty easy to get swept up in a conversation. Military spouses often seem to get themselves into this predicament at the grocery store or the mall. They'll be talking to the clerk or another shopper and next thing you know you told that person that you're buying something for your Marine in the field, you have to leave to pick up your kids at daycare, and get home to feed the dog. What seems like an innocent conversation, is really much more than that. You just told a complete stranger that you and your children are home alone, and that there is a dog at home. This person now knows that the only thing potentially standing in their way is a dog, which may or may not be a significant threat. While this may seem like paranoia, there are people out there that are looking for information like this. They may seem as if they are just being friendly, and many times that may even be the case, but why even put yourself in that position in the first place?
It's far more important that you and your family be safe and take all the necessary precautions. Even if that means you don't post your entire life on the internet or pour your heart out to a stranger at the mall.
Written by David Ogden, Sgt. USMC '11-'16.
David was a Sergeant with the United States Marine Corps from 2011-2016. He is a combat veteran. He has worked at Marine Parents as a writer since he left the Marine Corps. He is currently in college and writes for the organization full-time. Click here to read more about the author.