Coast Guard Blogging, how it ended for me

Written in 2012 this post is basicly untouched, less the names, I worte it so I wouldn't forget how it happened. I think I can share this now.

29 June 2012

Today I removed all of the posts pertaining to the COMMSTA Kodiak Shooting from ryanerickson.com as requested to do so by CDR X. He states it was on behalf of the widow of BMC (I don’t believe him). On each post I clearly stated that ‘the content was removed as requested’ and I did italicize the ‘requested.’ It should be noted that I kinda’ sorta’ gave CDR a warning as to what might happen if I removed the posts citing a quick decision by LT Y on my first post concerning the shootings. She called me up asking me to remove the post(s) (she was being asked to ask me); however, less than a minute later she called me back and told me to not do so as it may draw some unwanted attention.

I got the reaction I wanted. Within ten minutes the Kodiak Daily Mirror called me and asked me to comment on the removal of the posts; “was it the FBI or the Coast Guard that asked you?” I simply told them I wasn’t going to talk about it. They ended up cornering PA1 Z at the COMMSTA Change of Command that was going on the same day (I honestly didn’t know it was) asking her about the removal of the information.

Someone from HQ called me around 1500 (Alaska time) or so on behalf of CAPT A asking what happened. I told him everything but the name of CDR X; to which he reassured me that if I needed any help or felt as if I was being unfairly targeted to remove the info to let him know. To be honest, I really felt as if his words meant something. Perhaps they actually do in the world of the puzzle palace in DC, but here in the real world, my hobby and I are a perceived threat to the old guard and those who can’t understand that I’m on their side. Short of transferring me to work at CG-0922, there is little top cover for me. (Realistically, not even B could save me, he leaves in two years and I’m not promotable for at least four... it would be a losing battle drawn out over several years.)

02 July 2012

The end of my self-titled Coast Guard blog (what this site now is, post-CG Blog) began its end the day two of our Shipmates were shot on Kodiak Island on 12 April 2012. As ironic as it may sound, I actually had a forethought that if I started posting my thoughts, or anything about that particular subject, I may piss some people off. The mixed signals the day I first published a post on the status of the investigation from various people should have been as visible as the bat signal on an overcast night to me.

Within a month after the shooting I got a call from an old friend of mine who discussed the concerns of my site with the widow of BMC. In particular, it was about what some of the comments on my site may lead to and the potential finger-pointing associated with such comments. Not to mention the issues it could have with the ongoing investigation.

The exact comment that was discusses was one that was written based off of a post on Alaska Dispatch's website, which named a potential person of interest. Said comment, though having nothing to do with my site other than the fact that it was on my site, apparently didn't sit well with some. Fast forward to Friday, 29 July 2012, on which date I was spoken to, again, concerning the same comment(s).

This new individual "requested" I remove the posts as a favor to him, behind closed doors. It just so happens that this person was my direct boss which equates to the one who writes and signs my OER (evaluation); absolutely I'll comply. I was, after all, a junior O-3 with 16 years in just trying to make it to O-4.

Some would say I was a coward and gave in. I was. I did. Others have told me that what he did was wrong. It was. But in the grand scheme of things, it would be a losing battle if I were to go to the command and run it up the flagpole looking for some sympathy.

There weren't a lot of people who cared about social media (let alone blogs or bloggers) to really care about the career of a junior officer doing something during his off time. This organization is so small; word of a junior O-3 defying the 'request' of an O-5 would be known for a long time. I would be on the losing side, and without a doubt feel the effects of retribution (even if subtle).

I'd spoken in my past writings about not being pressured by the Coast Guard and its senior staff. It's true, I never once (less this particular time) was pressured one way or the other as to what to write or not write. I'd been questioned on my motives for some articles and 'clarification' on others, but nothing serious. In fact, during my times of hiatus in writing, I've been asked when I'd go back to it by some and offered writing gigs by others.

No, this was the first time I'd actually felt as if I had no choice. Though it started as a simple request to remove (actually the original request was to delete a post or two and some comments (Uh... NO!)) and some other minor content- I could see where this would lead. If I was willing to do so this time - what would stop him/them from coming to me again for something else not liked. Today (02 July 2012 (the day I first wrote this post)) in a meeting I was asked "why write stuff that could mean work for others in the office?" I told him I understood his thought process, but I didn't look at my writing that way. However, after I left, I began to think about this... if what I write in my own time creates work for those in the office, then they, the ones who are taking what I write as the gospel, are doing something wrong that probably needs to be fixed. Plain and simple.

How to end this? My last post of Coast Guard centric writing was published this morning on 2 July 2012 concerning the cancellation of that year's Innovation Expo. It's a sad post to end on but it is what it is. I made a promise the last time I was in deep conversation with someone about a Twitter post I wrote back in 2009 (I made some waves). Said promise was simple: if I were talked to again- negatively- about what I'm writing I'd stop. I was. I am.

03 July 2012

That moment, when you realize that the ones you wish were really holding the cards aren’t is a rather devastating one. Not to the point of complete failure, but devastating nonetheless. Today Sector had its monthly All Hands which is usually a fairly benign meeting of everyone to hand out awards (I officially received my FOSCR letter today) and such. During the “military minute” given by the Deputy CDR C I found out CDR X, my boss, wasn’t the only one who was less than happy with my choosing to blog about the service.

Almost as if CDR X and C were reading from the same script the words were nearly identical. Yesterday, and now today, I heard the words to the effect of “if your outside hobbies are causing extra work for your supervisors then your evaluations could suffer...” This actually went on for about 3-4 minutes. All the while CDR C never made eye contact with me. Again, the words were almost verbatim of what I heard the day before which tells me it wasn’t a one-man show and that slight twinge of fear that I felt was deserved.

Immediately after the meeting came to an end I went into my office, closed the door, and uploaded the premade, yet very short, index.html file I made for ryanerickson.com (which only showed the below image; it represents me buckleing under the pressure of the unsure Coast Guard). In the end I think shutting down the site is the only real way for me keep going in this organization. My wife was right... I should have quite a long time ago.

I almost feel as if the lessons Peter Stinson learned a few years ago about letting go of the blog should have been taken into account. Instead I feel as if I’m running the line of ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer.'Sad.

This is what my site's front page looked like for a year before I got back into it.

You'll see within the above post that it was written in 2012. I hadn't wanted to publish this for the fear of retribution. But even seven years later, though I still don't feel 100% safe, I think I'm ok. The Coast Guard has come a long way, and though you don't see anyone writing about the service from within anymore (aside from a few forums), I'd like to offer some advice if you're thinking about it: in today's politically charged arena, I wouldn't risk it.

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