Individual Online Communication Presents Security Problem for Military

America has the most technologically advanced military in the world -- but in one sense, that's actually a new challenge for our commanders.  The modern Army, Navy, Air-Force and Marines is full of men and women accustomed to instant communication:  e-mail, faxes, internet access.  In times of war, though, that presents a bit of a quandary.  No matter what branch of the military you serve in, you become part of a team.  Individuality is not necessarily encouraged, so individual access to private communication is a problem.  It's a security problem, especially in times of conflict, but it's a problem all branches of the military are struggling to deal with because communications can be interecepted, and that makes it a security concern. 

Right now, the Navy has no cell-phone restrictions, personal computers are allowed, but as far as internet access for those computers -- there are no guarantees.  Sending e-mail or browsing the interent is largely dependent on the commanding officer.

Still, plenty of servicemen and women ARE getting on the internet, and communicating by e-mail to people at home, including here on our website, and they're doing it from out in the middle of the ocean at times.  For instance, William Birkman has sent e-mail to our website, and he's serving on the USS Gettysburg in the Mediterranean Sea.  Birkman's from Advance, Missouri and uses to keep up with local news half-way across the world.

The military is developing new policies for communications with service personnel, but right now, there is no overall source for e-mail addresses.  A 1974 law prevents the military from listing names, phone numbers and addresses of it's members, and handling of mail is specific to each branch of the military.

Here's one of the best places online to get some answers, and find a serviceman or woman online.  It's the defense department's website:  Lots of information here, on locater services for all military branches.  Another helpful site called -- not sponsored by the government -- offers help with locating people in the military, you can access them, also, from the website. 

Trying to find a friend or family member in the military?  Be ready for anything.  Hearing back from them could take hours, days or weeks depending on where they are, what branch they're in and what their situation is.  Our own reporter Tiffany Sisson sent e-mail to her cousin serving in Italy just after the attack in New York, and only just heard back yesterday -- so it's hit 'n' miss.