PACAF expands reach with Pixels blog site
Pacific Air Forces has launched a blog site that allows airmen to share their stories with the world.
PACAF Pixels aims to create an informal setting where bloggers can post tidbits about everything from training with the Japan Self-Defense Force to an airman’s trip to an ice cave during a deployment to McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
"We’re not looking to just push out the company line," said Col. Edward Thomas, director of PACAF public affairs. "We have more formal press releases and a command information program for that."
Still, bloggers must get permission from their local public affairs office before posting. Content is monitored and screened to ensure postings don’t compromise security and are decent, public affairs officials said.
Airmen who upload videos on the Air Force’s BlueTube site follow similar procedures. BlueTube, a video-posting site connected to YouTube, launched in October and has had more than 30,000 videos viewed, said Air Force Capt. David Faggard, chief of the Air Force’s Emerging Technology division.
The division, which falls under the Air Force’s public affairs office, was created in August to develop creative ways to reach a wider, diverse audience, officials said.
So how open and honest will the Air Force let airmen be on their PACAF Pixels blogs?
"Airmen need to understand that they are airmen first and foremost, and if they blog, even on personal time, they represent the Air Force," Faggard said in an e-mail response to Stars and Stripes. "We’ve always allowed airmen to engage in conversations, briefings with the media, have telephone calls, etc … however there are certain limitations that must be taken to ensure airmen don’t release classified information or bring discredit upon the rich heritage of the past 60 years of the Air Force."
Two airmen at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa told Stripes they wouldn’t feel comfortable posting truthful blogs about their activities, fearing disapproval from commanders or fellow colleagues. Both declined to give their names, saying their comments in the newspaper could be viewed negatively by their command.
Others, like Kadena Airman 1st Class Christian Tangalan, 19, said airmen may naturally hesitate to be forthcoming in Pixel blogs about the daily grind of the Air Force or a deployment in the Pacific, but should look at the site as a "valuable" resource for fellow airmen, their families and viewers.
"I’d do it. It’s a very human source of information," he said. "A person shouldn’t feel uncomfortable for saying how they feel. And I wouldn’t mind venting — negative or positive — because it gives you a different take on things."
Kadena Airman 1st Class Josh Kimball agreed.
"It wouldn’t be a bad thing," he said. "It allows people to see what it’s like from all sides."
Airman 1st Class Charles Johnston of Kadena’s 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron said the site could generate interest, particularly among younger airmen.
Johnston, 22, was tapped by the 18th Wing’s public affairs office to blog about performing his job during a joint training with the JSDF earlier this month at Chitose Air Base in mainland Japan.
"At first I thought it was kind of dumb, but after I did it, I thought it was kind of cool," Johnston said.
Local public affairs offices reached out to airmen early on for posts to help generate interest in the site. Officials launched a "soft opening" in September. They’ve averaged around 60 visits daily and more than 2,400 page views, according to PACAF.
The Air Force has spots on social networking and blog sites such as Facebook and Twitter and is researching other online outlets, Faggard said.
Blogging is ideal because it’s a way for family, friends and civilians curious about the military to understand it from an individual’s perspective, said Air Force public affairs officer Capt. Erika Yepsen, who helped create the site.
The Web site’s name, Pixels, was coined from the idea that a pixel is a tiny piece of information that, when combined with others, makes up an entire digital image.
"As an 18-year-old kid you’re not likely to read a hard-hitting informative news story, but you’re much more likely to read your buddy’s account of what he’s doing in his mission," Yepsen said. "That tiny piece of the picture — that is what we feel is really indicative of all the airmen."
Viewers can openly post responses.
The hope is to create a healthy dialogue, Yepsen said.
"We realize there will probably be some people who aren’t fans of the Air Force," she said, "and we welcome those comments as long as they keep it clean."