Army 1st Sgt. Katrina Moerk recently reminded service members about their code of conduct, and how their actions reflect on them and the military, even when they are on the internet.
Moerk has set the standard for all members of the U.S. military as to how they should behave, both in and out of uniform. For her standards and leadership, Moerk received a special thank you from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
For those who serve their country, there is a level of pride in their service. The degrees of pride may vary, but it’s always there. Many will use military-centric images for their avatars on internet sites and their social media accounts. Some will use pictures of themselves in uniform.
Moerk, the senior enlisted for Charlie Company, 741st Military Intelligence Battalion, recently came across material on a social media network that she found sexist and offensive. When Moerk commented on the inappropriateness of the video, she was bombarded with insults from fellow commenters. When Moerk noticed that some of those launching insults in defense of the inappropriate material were wearing military uniforms, she contacted them directly.
Specifically, Moerk sent messages to the individuals, explaining who she was and why they were wrong. Some of the commenters that Moerk contacted were not happy with her tactic, responding that the internet is the wrong place to “pull rank” on someone. But these mostly junior enlisted members need to remember that while they are part of the U.S. military, they are held to a high standard of conduct on base, in the field, and in public settings. This includes the internet, especially if their military affiliation is made known by their actions.
Moerk reminded the commenters that if they were all in uniform, they would not attempt to speak in that manner to an E-8. So why should they be able to act inappropriately online?
“If you don’t know who you’re talking to, be careful what you say in an open public forum on the Internet,” Moerk told the commenters.
Moerk also copied Dr. Christine Altendorf, director of the Army’s Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program in the message, in attempt to help focus future SHARP trainings for their units. Altendorf brought Moerk’s email to the attention of Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, who was the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel at the time.
Gen. Bromberg launched three administrative investigations, because soldiers from three separate major commands were involved in the incident, either through producing the video or making inappropriate comments. Ultimately, SHARP training has been changed for the better. For leading by example and defending Army values, 1st Sgt. Moerk was awarded the Army Commendation Medal during a December 15th ceremony at the Pentagon.
Military Connection would also like to applaud 1st Sgt. Moerk for her willingness to stand up and reproach inappropriate behavior in public. Perhaps other service members will think twice before making remarks online that could discredit to their branch of service. Moerk’s actions were in line with keeping to the highest standards of the Army, and epitomized the role of the non-commissioned officer, the backbone of the U.S. military.
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Military Connection: GI’s Internet Intervention: By Debbie Gregory