BANGOR, Maine — Bangor’s Troop Greeters have altered the way they use the Internet after the Pentagon expressed concerns in a letter that troop safety might be compromised.
The Department of Defense sent the letter after a deploying military member contacted the Pentagon because an image of the soldier was posted on the Greeters’ website, www.themainetroopgreeters.com. That caused the soldier to worry about troop security, according to David Nokes, the author of the letter and a community relations staffer for the Defense Department.
After receiving the complaint, Nokes visited the website, which displayed official seals of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
“I’m certain you have done this as an expression of your patriotism and to honor our troops,” Nokes wrote. “I also believe that you probably don’t realize that these service seals are restricted to official uses only. With that in mind, we would greatly appreciate it if you removed them from your website at your first opportunity.”
The Nov. 7 letter, addressed to three leaders of the Troop Greeters, opens by thanking the group for “the tremendous outpouring of support your organization has provided our deploying and returning military members and their families.”
After speaking with Nokes over the phone, the Troop Greeters agreed to pull the seals off its website and stop posting pictures of troops online, according to Charles “Chuck” Knowlen of Eddington, a member of the Troop Greeters’ community relations committee.
Knowlen said the Pentagon was worried that having too much information or too many images on the website might lead to a security risk for members of the service.
“We’re glad it happened because it woke us up,” Knowlen said in a telephone interview Friday. “We don’t want any breach of security.”
Knowlen said that the Troop Greeters are “deeply concerned for security.” The group has laid out new restrictions on what its members can post on the website and social media sites.
The greeters themselves are screened before they’re allowed to join the group and are only informed of an inbound flight a few hours before its arrival time. They never know where the flight is coming from or going to or what units are on board.
“We weren’t putting out much information before, but we’re putting out even less now,” Knowlen said.
He said the Troop Greeters were happy to comply with the requests if the Defense Department thinks it means more security for the troops flying through Bangor.
“Our mission is simple,” Knowlen said. “Express the nation’s gratitude and appreciation to the troops, and, if going over, we wish them a safe return. If they are coming home, we wish them a joyful homecoming.”
Bangor International Airport Director Rebecca Hupp said she was aware that the letter had been sent to the Troop Greeters.
“The Troop Greeters, the Pentagon and the airport all are concerned about the safety and security of military service members transiting through Bangor,” she said.
She did not expect any significant impact to the troop greeting program.
“The sky is not falling,” she said.
BDN writer Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.