Air Force Special Operations Command, headquartered at Hurlburt Field, has enhanced its review process for Twitter posts after a recent tweet mentioning COVID-19 was criticized.
This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to the Northwest Florida Daily News.
HURLBURT FIELD — Air Force Special Operations Command, headquartered at Hurlburt Field, pulled a tweet off of its Twitter social media feed earlier this week after questions were raised about its reference to COVID-19, the serious respiratory illness being spread by the new coronavirus.
The post appeared late Tuesday night, just hours before Col. Michael Conley, installation commander and commander of AFSOC’s 1st Special Operations Wing, declared a public health emergency on the base and elevated the installation to Health Protection Condition Charlie. HPCON Charlie is the fourth level of a five-level Department of Defense system for implementing health-related precautions.
Under HPCON Charlie, implemented when there is sustained community transmission of an illness, military personnel are warned to expect cancellation of community activities and limited access to supplies and services, as well as implementation of remote work procedures.
The tweet, part of CV22uesday, a long-running Tuesday feature at @AFSpecOpsCmd on Twitter, featured a photo of the CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor military aircraft under the caption “Know what else has CV that isn’t #COVID19? CV22uesday!” followed by an American flag.
The tweet was taken down after Military Times, an independent military news website, contacted AFSOC about it. The story also was picked up by Task & Purpose, another independent website featuring news and analysis for a military audience.
Military Times was the only entity to call AFSOC about the tweet, according to Matt Durham, the command’s director of public affairs.
“We recognize it was in bad taste,” Durham said Friday.
AFSOC had a review process in place for its social media postings well before the Tuesday tweet was published, Durham said, although he wouldn’t go into detail about that process.
Since the tweet was posted, Durham said, the command has boosted its review process.
“We’ve kind of upped it considerably,” Durham said, again without providing details about the process.
Military Times, which saw the tweet and associated comments before they were pulled down, reported on a couple of comments targeting the command’s public affairs officers.
“PAOs bout to get fired,” read one of the comments, according to the Military Times report. Also according to Military Times, comments included another person who wrote, “Seems like PAOs are either really good at their jobs or they post stuff like this ... .”
Asked whether the public affairs office had heard from AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Jim Slife regarding the post, Durham said he couldn’t address that question.
Durham did say, though, that things “have pretty much moved on” in the wake of the Tuesday tweet and the adjustment of the AFSOC review process.
AFSOC has posted tweets treating COVID-19 seriously. On March 12,, as just one example, the command posted a reminder that hand-washing is an important means of combating the spread of the new coronavirus. “Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands,’ the tweet read, over a tagline reading ”AFSOCfactsOVERfear.“
On March 21, above the same tagline, AFSOC posted a tweet reminding viewers of four steps — 20-second hand-washing; avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, covering coughs and practicing social distancing -- to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
pic.twitter.com/g18MsCJtdN— AFSOC (@AFSpecOpsCmd) March 12, 2020
Check out these four steps you can take to protect yourself and your family. Learn more about what you can to do prevent the spread of #COVID19 at https://t.co/1lQTB6vyeP. pic.twitter.com/RVlHE3EjTY— AFSOC (@AFSpecOpsCmd) March 22, 2020