Today I am going to tell you a story. It’s an innocent story but one that will explain why Operational Security — or OPSEC — is so important not just for military members but for their families as well.
Once upon a time, a captain’s wife enjoyed walking every morning with her neighborhood friends. One day these friends, a lieutenant’s wife, another captain’s wife, and a lieutenant colonel’s wife were walking when the first captain’s wife mentioned her chaplain husband had to stay close to the base the upcoming weekend.
The lieutenant’s wife mentioned her husband, a pilot, was on call for the weekend. Hmmm.
The other captain’s wife, whose husband was in communications, also said her husband was on call. Double hmmm. What was going on?
When the fourth wife, the Operations Support Squadron Commander’s wife, said her husband would be working all weekend, the ladies all knew something was up. What was going on in the news that week? The ladies put their heads together to try and figure out what would require their husbands, all in different fields on base, to stay near home.
It was the U.S. invasion of Haiti in September 1994. You can read more about the invasion here, but the gist of it is that troops from the Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force gathered in Puerto Rico and Southern Florida to support an invasion led by the Joint Special Operations Command.
The purpose of the invasion was to get General Joseph Raoul Cedras to step down as president and re-instate the elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Cedras led a military coup to overthrow Aristide in 1991.
A diplomatic delegation of former President Jimmy Carter, former Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff Colin Powell, and U.S. Sam Nunn of Georgia went to Haiti to negotiate with Cedras. It wasn’t until he was shown a video of the 82nd Airborne aircraft being loaded with troops that Cedras capitulated. He apparently assumed it was a live feed but was told the video was taken two hours before, and the planes were already over the Atlantic Ocean headed for Haiti. Cedras accepted the best deal he could get, and Aristide returned to Haiti in October 1994.
That’s enough of a history lesson for now. The important piece here is how four wives put together what they knew about their spouses’ orders and, together with what they saw on the news, figured out what was going on before it happened.
“This is how spies work,” the Good Chaplain said. They gather bits and pieces of information, get a clear picture of what is going on, and sometimes determine exactly what is happening.
Remember OPSEC. Next week I will talk about what not to talk about.
Do you have an OPSEC story like the one above? Share it in the comments below.