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Front-line tweeting tells war's story, in brief

Jul. 18, 2009 - 01:33PM   |   Last Updated: Jul. 18, 2009 - 01:33PM  |  
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In a recent post from his forward operating base on the frontier of Pakistan, Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple details the trials and tribulations of the Afghan National Army troops his unit is assigned to train in a">blog he calls "My Last Tour."

"Prior to departing for ‘ANA land' we received information that several hundred soldiers were sick and it might not be a good idea to visit today," he wrote in a July 13 posting, complete with pictures of gut-clenching, pasty-faced Afghan soldiers.

If you were among the 440 people following his Twitter postings July 9, you would have read this simple missive: "How 2 tell 8-yr-old Afghan boy 2 keep faith that we'll succeed in Afghanistan while he has 2 live w/ Taliban; poor kid."

He writes that his wife has to handle the nuts and bolts of managing the blog assembling pictures and posts from his e-mails. Internet service is too spotty at his forward operating base to do it himself, but it's good enough for his regular Twitter shout-outs.

"With Twitter you're going to see a huge explosion of microblogging on the military side, because it's real-time and trending," blogging veteran J.P. Borda said.

"There are guys on the front lines now that are tweeting; they might not have that much access to a computer, but a lot of times they do have cell phones," said Borda, who's been blogging for five years. Borda just started using Twitter in recent months and already has more than 33,000 followers.

"A year ago in Iraq, you never even heard of Twitter," he says. Now, he's adding new Twitter accounts to his blogging index site by the dozens every week.

Chris Harp's account may well be one of them.

An Army officer who describes himself as a "social media addict," Harp has tweeted his preparation for deployment to Afghanistan.

"Walking on the Tarmac to the aircraft. Sleep Aid has been taken," he told his 18 followers July 10.

"At Manas Air Base, Kyrgyz Republic ..." he wrote July 11. Two days later: "The Internet connections seriously suck out here. ... I'll upload photos later."

Army Sgt. Selena Coppa, who writes her Active Duty Patriot blog from her unit in Germany, credits Twitter's growing popularity in the military with its similarity to instant messaging.

"It's the closest thing to IMs that's still legal in the Army," she says. "Twitter is definitely providing a bit of an impact in that it's one of the social-networking sites that most commanders haven't caught onto yet and also takes the least time away from work."

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