Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Current Events and PSYOP

Our enemies are more than aware of current events. Often the will create events and capitalize on the media coverage as a critical element in their overall IO strategy. The horrific Bhutto assassination is a good case in point. While the assassins may not be sophisticated PSYOP or IO warriors, other enemies of the US certainly will be and we can expect some exploitation of this event by our enemies to discredit us and to damage our diplomatic, military and economic efforts.

Consequently we must consider the PSYOP aspects of current events in an offensive and defensive perspective. What messages and campaigns can we expect our enemies to engage in as a result of the event? What counters do we need to have on the shelf, or launch preemptively so as to minimize the negative effect of our enemies’ efforts?

It makes logical sense for PSYOP planners to ‘war game’ various possible current event scenarios and develop contingency plans for them. Granted today’s optempo may make this a difficult task, but it would appear that some up front planning could pay off in optimized timely responses. It strikes me that political leaders are especially vulnerable because they are seeking to reach out and touch their body politic. Often this will mean exposure to hostile elements and potential death or injury.

PSYOP teams in particular should regularly analyze the leading figures in their AO and assess how to deal with events that impact those leaders positively or negatively. Similarly echelons in the PSYOP chain of command should consider event contingency planning as a regular activity.

In the commercial sector it is often said that a key to dealing with a business disaster is having the right press release ready to go. This is a word to the wise in PSYOP as well.

A Happy and Health 2008 to You All!

Wired Magazine Classifies PSYOP As Part of Future War

About half way through the article titled: How Technology Almost Lost the War: In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social — Not Electronic, the XO of 2nd Bn, 6th Marine Regiment credits PSYOP with helping to convince the people of Falujah that al Qaeda needed to be driven out. The XO notes that PSYOP working tools are simple such as posters, radio broadcasts and newspaper articles, but he is quick to point out that Arab culture is essentially an oral one and that conversation can be a potent weapon, especially if you can accomplish what the quoted PSYOP NCO does: “I find the right people to shape, and they shape the rest.” The article makes it clear that this NCO knows his business and the territory. It also details how he earns the respect of those he meets by knowing their culture, their history and perhaps most importantly their present.

Articles like these are important because they portray PSYOP soldiers in a supportive and professional way. They also allow the reader to draw the conclusion that pound for pound, dollar for dollar PSYOP is a price performer for the US government, even in spots like Iraq.

The takeaway here is that we shouldn’t be shy about promoting the good attributable to PSYOP especially if we, like all good professionals can put a face with the story. The need for positive PSYOP exposure is important in the days of budget in fighting. There are other implications as well. PSYOP must work closely with PAO and PSYOPers would do themselves a favor by learning some of the skills that PAO personnel employ every day. Remember the main difference between the two is that PAO seeks to inform the media so that they can inform an audience while PSYOP works inform the audience directly.

For the complete article see:http://www.wired.com/politics/security/magazine/15-12/ff_futurewar?currentPage=4

This is a shot of a dining area @ FOB Patriot. Notice ther are no chairs.

FOB Patriot and Beyond

As luck would have it during my visit to Fort Bragg for PSYOP Regimental Week a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity of visiting FOB Patriot. FOB Patriot is the pre-deployment training area run by 1st Army. PSYOP Reservists along with all Army Reservists and National Guard troops are cycled through FOB Patriot prior to deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For me it brought back memories of one of my VERY early Army experiences – ROTC Summer Camp at Indiantown Gap Military Reservation (IGMR) in Pennsylvania, summer of 1968. While the summer camp serves as the final transition point from Cadet to 2LT, this camp’s secondary purpose was to prepare soldiers to deploy to Viet Nam. High on the list of things to learn was how to spot and avoid booby traps. All I remember was punji sticks and don’t step on the trip wires.

Fast forward not quite 40 years and I’m walking through the training lane on IEDs and VBIEDs which is affectionately known as the “Petting Zoo” and the instructor’s presentation about today’s dangers also included trip wires. Some things change and others don’t.

Speaking of not changing, I’ve always felt that in some ways the Army can be gifted in knowing how to make a person miserable. “We don’t have to train to be miserable” has been a well used phrase, perhaps since the formation of the first military force. FOB Patriot has its own unique case in point, no, it’s not the crowded tent like quarters, nor the shower or latrine. I’m told it’s the brainchild of a General Officer who felt that the troops needed to be more efficient. His answer – eat standing up. That’s right, no sitting down to savor the latest in Mermite cuisine. The troops’ chow is brought out in Mermite cans twice a day and they have to eat standing up. On the face of it, this would defy the common sense test. While I haven’t deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan, I don’t recall ever seeing a Mess Hall with everyone standing up. No matter that this is neither physically or mentally healthy, it strikes me as plain stupid, but then again, Generals will be Generals.

During my visit I got a chance to talk to some of the troops. I learned about the M4 and the new body armor. I marveled at the upbeat nature of all I met.

As I think about the training, it’s clear to me that while the training appears solid and troop morale is high, we are missing a bet and violating one of the military’s most basic tenets – ‘train as you fight’.

The nature of the PSYOP organizational split means that Reserve PSYOP soldiers will not be training along side their counterparts from either the 4th POG or the Joint Military Information Support Command (MISC) (the former JPSE). In my view PSYOP is a continually evolving profession and one where cross fertilization and the ability to think out of the box is the norm not the exception.

With 2008 just around the corner I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you the very best in the New Year and to our troops: God Bless and God Speed.

Senator Lugar and Secretary Rice Propose Reconstruction Reserve

All of us in PSYOP are painfully aware of the fact that many of our assignments have been and are likely to be in future support of reconstructing the civilian infrastructure of nations that have suffered conflict or national disaster. We recognize that if these operations are to be successful they need civilian expertise. Often the vacuum of available and needed talent is filled by our brothers and sisters in Civil Affairs. However, it’s clear that the military is not the optimal resource for this mission.

Senator Richard Lugar (R) Indiana and Secretary of State Condolezza Rice have proposed the creation of a Civilian Reconstruction Reserve. While you can check out the details in 17 December’s Washington Post, the essence of their proposal is to organize a volunteer civilian force that can be rapidly deployed to address these tasks which they acknowledge in the quote below:

“But the truth is, no diplomatic service in the world has within its ranks all the experts or expertise needed for this kind of work. As a result, from Somalia and Haiti to Bosnia and Kosovo, and now to Afghanistan and Iraq, our government has increasingly depended on our men and women in uniform to perform civilian responsibilities. The military has filled this void admirably, but it is a task that others can and should take up. The primary responsibility for post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction should not fall to our fighting men and women but to volunteer, civilian experts.”

The concept is also supported by President Bush and by a bipartisan majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Lugar has been a long time observer of soft power and how it should be applied and with the President, DoD and DoS in favor you it will be interesting to see if the idea moves beyond the concept phase.

What’s the point of this post for the PSYOP community?

The point is we need to be politically aware and conscious, if you’re from Indiana, write the good Senator and offer your views. Don’t be concerned that he won’t read it, a staffer will and constituent voices are the currency of Congress.

I’d like to hear about your experiences with ‘reconstruction’ and your thoughts on who and how to best accomplish these types of missions.

Kudos To The 4th POG For PSYOP Regimental Week

It was a high personal and professional privilege to be invited and participate in the first PSYOP Regimental Week. The event was organized and run by the 4th POG and crammed an incredible agenda into a fully packed three days.

Each of the POB hosted an open house where soldiers showcased their efforts with pictures, displays, presentations and conversation. I personally learned a lot and was very impressed by the poise of our PSYOP soldiers. Presentations were of a very high caliber and addressed best practices, previous campaigns and equipment.

The Strategic Studies Department offered insights into their work and were able to engage in dialogue with PSYOP soldiers resulting in a healthy interchange of information and views.

There were also displays of new concepts in PSYOP related equipment to provide a glimpse into future capabilities and to elicit input from experienced PSYOPers on how the equipment could be adapted for optimal suitability to future missions.

The week was completed with an awards ceremony that honored outstanding achievements by 4th POG athletes. The closing ceremony was a moving tribute to the history of PSYOP and to our fallen comrades. Names and images of or KIA were honored in a fitting close to an exceptional week.

Hopefully this will be the first of many such events for the Community and that succeeding events will involve not just the 4th POG but the 2nd and 7th POGs as well.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Regimental Blog Kick Off Post

This is the initial posting to the PSYOP Regimental Blog. All of us in the PSYOP community understand the pressing need to communicate and share information, views and perspectives, after all, as PSYOPers, that’s our stock in trade.

It’s fitting that as we prepare to welcome 2008 we harness today’s technology to help us address tomorrow’s needs and adversaries. Like all blogs, this one is meant to be a both a personal and a Community effort. Blogs are fluid, they don’t require attenuated approval cycles or data bases of e-mail addresses, I encourage each of you to read and if you’d like to contribute. Interaction can be public through the blog or you can e-mail me personally at PSYOPRegiment@aol.com. As the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment I will publish postings on an irregular basis.

I am personally indebted to COL Curt Boyd, Commander of the 4th PSYOP Group and his personnel for taking the initiative and mustering the resources to orchestrate the first Annual PSYOP Regimental Week at Fort Bragg. It was an energizing experience for us all and I’m eagerly looking forward to next year when we’ll be able to include the other POGs as well.
In upcoming postings I’ll provide perspective of that event and of my visit to the First Army FOB where our Reserve PSYOP soldiers are being prepared for mobilization.

Even though PSYOP units may have split into two different chains of command, we as PSYOP Professionals need to stay connected to insure our own unity of effort.
Yours in the Regiment,

Lawrence D. Dietz, COL (R), US Army Reserve