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At Fort Leavenworth, officers are marching on a new target: the blogosphere

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Caldwell’s two-page blog policy for students includes among its instructions: Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of a newspaper with your name and photo. Don’t write anything that might embarrass Fort Leavenworth, the U.S. Army or the U.S. government. Stay apolitical. Sign your name and rank. Don’t divulge classified information; military operations being executed; or any tactics, techniques or procedures that aren’t already public. And though Caldwell tells The Pitch he wants to create an environment where students feel they have “the freedom of failure,” the policy reads that public-affairs officers will be conducting annual reviews of the blogs for policy violations.

Students are allowed to blog on any site, Caldwell says. But in the first few months after he explained his mandate to the officers, he still noticed “this massive reluctance to blog.” Realizing the officers might feel more comfortable on a military blog site that is accessible to the public, he had the Combined Arms Center add a blog site to its home page (http://usacac.army.mil/blog/). “It’s catching on slowly,” Caldwell says. “I’d like to see, three months from now, triple or quadruple the number of people blogging than I see today.”

There’s still grumbling among the ranks. “When we first started talking about this last summer, when I got here, my gosh, the resistance,” Caldwell says. “My first obstacle was getting through to all of the instructors.”

The Fort Leavenworth blogging mandates and other communication assignments are the bare minimum, Caldwell says.

The bare minimum is what has Simonds, Meals and classmate Maj. James “Wylie” Huffman dressed in uniform on a recent January evening, gripping tiny cups of wine, and hanging out near a table of cheese and crackers on the fifth floor of the Kansas City, Missouri, Central Library. Cardon, the CGSC deputy commandant, is giving a free public talk titled “Back From Iraq,” and the three officers have showed up in uniform in case any of the attendees want to ask them questions about their service.

Huffman says some of their classmates are jealous that this simple, in-uniform appearance — nibbling appetizers and mingling with downtowners — will count as the public-speaking portion of their media requirement.

Enough people show up for Cardon’s talk to fill all of the folding chairs lined up in the library’s reception area. Cardon, in full uniform and speaking into a small microphone clipped to his jacket, introduces himself as a wayward hippie turned soldier. In 1978, he applied to just two schools: the University of California at Berkeley and West Point. He enrolled at West Point because it was free, and he showed up with long hair and no idea what he was getting into. The audience rewards this confession with appreciative laughter.

Cardon fills the next 30 minutes or so with talk about wisdom gleaned from Iraqi sheiks, of the challenges of dealing with a tribal society, and of efforts to build Iraqi leadership without doing all the work for them. “Prime Minister [Nouri] al-Maliki was elected prime minister by one vote, yet we expected him to operate like he had a mandate. And he’s trying to balance his own Shia power, Kurds, Sunnis, and not look like he’s an American stooge at the same time. That’s a very, very difficult position for a leader to be in,” Cardon says he told Petraeus in Iraq one day.

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