We all know how important it is to maintain operational security (OPSEC). During work-up training and while deployed, we hear it every day. With modern-day communications available almost anywhere, OPSEC has become more essential than ever. Every day from every level of command, we’re told to keep information given to family and friends to a minimum.

Now I can’t speak for everyone, but most combat arms guys don’t really want to tell their family about what’s happening on the crazy days outside the wire: the potential threats, the close calls, and near misses. We prefer to talk about the boring day with no TICs in the AO, a long uneventful patrol, how we pass the time in the platoon house, our childish shenanigans that make deployments great, the two pounds of sugar they somehow manage to squeeze into one Green Beans iced chai, the first time we realized that man-love Thursdays are a real thing over there, and how hilarious it was when you caught the local herder getting intimate with his livestock every night through your FLIR just east of OP4 (those who have been there know exactly where this took place).

When you’re deployed, OPSEC becomes very important. A simple message on Facebook or email to your wife and kids that says, “We’re flying out Monday morning,” could be easily intercepted, telling the enemy to expect a convoy move within a certain area sometime Sunday or early Monday, putting an entire rotation in or out at risk. Any information about you or your family can potentially be used against you personally, or your entire cause. This is drilled into us on day one of basic.

I remember on my Basic Soldier Qualification course, a staff member found an abundance of information on a candidate through open social media sources. To prove the importance of information security and OPSEC, the staff printed the names and images of his parents and siblings as found on Facebook, as well as his parents’ place of employment—address included—and leaked the info to the OPFOR. The OPFOR then snatched the candidate from the trench line in the early hours of the morning and zip-cuffed his fire-team partner.

Upon the candidate being shown the information and photos, the OPFOR coerced him to execute his fire-team partner and draw out the layout of the platoon defensive position, which included their section-level hides, the platoon RV, location of each trench, and support weapons trenches. The candidate remained a POW of OPFOR for the next 24 hours. While the rest of the candidates were freezing in the trenches and eating IMPs (Canadian MREs) during the Canadian winter FTX, the candidate in question was in a warm, heated tent, receiving fresh coffee and meals.

The next night, the OPFOR lit us up hard. They placed an MG just out of range of our small arms and caused a stand-to. They also placed an OPFOR soldier on the track plan between each section hide and their trench lines.  As soon as the stand-to was called, the members who were racked out rushed to their feet, donned their fighting order, and ran right into the OPFOR waiting for them.

Needless to say, the platoon of candidates was completely annihilated. We lay in the snow, “dead,” and waited for further instruction. The course staff walked the captured candidate through the “dead” members of his platoon, told us all what had happened, why it had happened, and even showed the lovely map the POW had drawn out for the OPFOR. We were pissed, but it really drove home the importance of OPSEC.

Later, while deployed, my platoon received briefings on OPSEC regularly. The lessons learned on that Basic Soldier Qualification course years before always resonated with me.