WASHINGTON — Soldiers serving in Iraq are disappointed and annoyed by the military’s recent move to block MySpace on official Defense computers, but also said that they understand the reasons behind the move.
Sgt. Sara McEathron, part of the 134th Base Support Battalion’s A Company, uses the site almost daily to keep in touch with her younger siblings.
“Before we all had accounts on it, I would keep in touch with them a lot less frequently,” she said. “Not being able to get onto MySpace creates a problem keeping in touch.”
Since Monday, the Defense Department has blocked access to MySpace, YouTube and a host of other popular sites on official department computers worldwide. Defense officials said the move is an effort to boost network efficiency by blocking streaming audio and video feeds, which put a heavy drain on the systems.
Jeff, a soldier from the 82nd Airborne stationed in Iraq who asked that his full name not be used, said he thinks the move could be bad for morale.
“I just think it’s not going to be good for soldiers that use this to contact loved ones,” he said.
“It’s not good to take that away from soldiers. Then they have to go through the troubles of finding new ways to communicate with their families and everyone they love back home.”
Officials at U.S. Central Command said most troops downrange likely won’t notice any changes, since sites with streaming audio and video are already blocked on most Defense computers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And soldiers in Iraq who use the social networking site regularly said they have already been forced to find ways around the official Defense Department networks. McEathron said she and her bunkmates pay $1,000 every three months for a private satellite dish.
“It’s totally worth not having to deal with going to the MWR room, waiting in line, and not being able to go to whatever sites we want to go to,” she said.
Pfc. Richard Hartless, who is serving in Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division, said his platoon has also found private Internet networks to get around the military blocks, but he isn’t upset at that inconvenience.
“I do believe that it is a good idea blocking these sites on DOD computers, because I know people can inadvertently give out secure information on these sites,” he said. “I do not believe that DOD employees should be accessing these sites on their work computers anyway.”
Staff Sgt. Dontay Powell, a member of the 13th Sustainment Command out of Texas, said he has never had direct access to his MySpace account at work while in Iraq or back home at Fort Hood.
“But there are Internet cafes here in Iraq, so soldiers still have the opportunity to chat with or e-mail their loved ones,” he said.
“Besides the fact it slows down a network, (those sites are) a distraction to the soldier who should be working earning his or her pay. Soldiers, in my opinion, understand this move and are unconcerned about it.”