While Lieutenant General Caldwell may be recognized among active service members as an advocate of the uses of social media, his name is less likely to spring readily to the minds of non-military educators, despite the fact that he, like many of us who teach rhetoric and writing in civilian contexts, ascribes to a pedagogy that encourages using the power of digital technologies to deliver information and to engage with public audiences. Also like many of us, Caldwell feels an "obligation... to assist in the training and education" of his "students" (Army soldiers and officers) to "equip them with the skills" to engage in public discourse credibly. Those of us who use blogs, YouTube, and Facebook in our writing classes so that students can receive responses to their writing from audiences beyond the walls of the classroom may applaud Caldwell's commitment "to encourage everyone at all levels to try [new media technologies] out and engage with a new audience; to see what happens and who comments when you post a blog..."
While some readers of Kairos may be skeptical about Caldwell's claim that "the intent is to not use technology to be gatekeepers and agenda setters," but rather to "engage and inform people about what [military service members] do each day," his comments regarding the need for "transparency and credibility" in the military are reflected in the remarks of Vivek Kundra, Federal Chief Information Officer, who, in a recent interview on NPR's Weekend Edition, stated that part of the purpose of his newly minted Cabinet post is to promote a "culture of transparency and open government" and to "leverage the power of technology ... to move the government to the 21st century" (Cornish, 2010). It is worth noting that on February 25, 2010, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued DTM 09-026: Responsible and Effective Use of Internet-based Capabilities, which permits "official uses of Internet-based capabilities unrelated to public affairs" if the information is "relevant and accurate and provides no information not approved for public release" and if it includes "a disclaimer when personal opinions are expressed" (Department of Defense, 2010, p. 6), a permissiveness that was previously lacking in the DoD's practice of blocking YouTube and other Internet sites on their networks. Yet the DoD's concerns with security and privacy are not unfamiliar to us; many K-16 teachers struggle to work within the rules and restrictions of their systems (including blocked sites and limitations on public access) as well.
Indeed, in this interview, Lieutenant General Caldwell shows us—from his previous work as the equivalent of a graduate program director at the Combined Arms Center to his more recent work promoting literacy in Afghanistan—that top military leaders share many of the same goals and are working to achieve many of the same aims as professionals in the fields of rhetoric and composition and new media studies, and that military hierarchies can even more directly foreground concerns of openness familiar to those of us who teach with technology.