Thursday, December 23, 2010

Technology and MISO – Leverage or Wasted Funding?

This week’s post was inspired by two issues of the highly informative PSYOP Association electronic publication, Frontpost. In FPI # 1515 Wired magazine’s article on Battlefield Holograms is referenced (see and in FPI # 1518 an article from the BBC News about the Colombian government giving the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) a special present (see

Photo Source: Reuters via BBC website

Having been in high tech since the days of the punched card, and having seen technologies come and go, it would be fair to say that I am more than a little skeptical of technology in general, much less as an information weapons system. Holograms, 3 dimensional representations of objects or people can be projected to give the illusion that the object is real, while the technology is ‘cool’, I think the MISO application is limited as I will explain below.

It seems to me that this technology is as applicable to military deception as it might be to MISO under the proper circumstances and in fact, may be more useful in that area perhaps to deceive IMINT collectors, if the technology is that robust. Overall my instincts tell me that holograms would be most effective in a MISO application against technologically inexperienced targets such as those that might be found in rural Afghanistan. One of my sources who was stationed in Afghanistan for a year described several instances from his personal experience that lead me to believe this type of technology might work there. However, I believe its useful life would be quite short, and that the word would spread to the point that the technique’s effectiveness would diminish over time.

A far better application is found in the BBC article on the Farc. According to the article the Colombian Special Forces infiltrated the Farc’s area of operations (AO) and set up “a 25m (82ft) high tree with 2,000 lights”. The tree was surrounded by sensors, when movement triggered the sensors the tree lit up. I loved this one!
First of all it showed that the Colombian SF could infiltrate what might have been considered a very well defended position, secondly there is the emotional reaction to the sudden burst of light throughout the dark jungle and lastly, perhaps most significantly the symbolism of the tree generally makes people think of their homes, friends and families. The simple and powerful message: now is a good time to go home.

Kudos to the Colombians!

As 2010 draws to a close, I wish my brothers and sisters in the MISO community Happy Holidays and may 2011 be your most peaceful and satisfying year ever. Next entry will be in January unless something really cool comes up.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jiminy Cricket in the Form of a Non Government Organization

As many of you may remember, Jiminy Cricket was Pinocchio’s conscience. He helped to coach the puppet to be truthful so that the puppet’s dream of turning into a ‘real boy’ could be realized.

Today’s Washington Post featured an article entitled: “Obama says U.S. is ‘on track’ to achieve goals in Afghanistan” (see The President claims that the US is making progress, but as he noted "the gains we've made are fragile and reversible.". The President added …..Taliban momentum has been "arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas, although these gains remain fragile and reversible,"

Photo Source:

The impression of this rather strategic communication was to convey a positive view of where we are in Afghanistan. The target audience was of course beyond those fortunate enough to be at the White House. The target audience is world opinion.

When I see statements like this I become quite skeptical and while I have never been to Afghanistan, I have spoken to many who have been there, and my impression is that Afghanistan is a feudal state that has resisted centralized control of any type – whether driven by Afghanis or by outsiders for centuries. It didn’t seem quite right to me that we are succeeding were so many others have failed. So I dug a bit deeper.

Interestingly, another seemingly innocuous article popped up on my radar screen. The NY Times reported on 15 December 2010: “For Red Cross, Aid Conditions Hit New Low in Afghanistan” (see
The article quotes the Reto Stocker, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (a non-government organization with HQ in Switzerland): “By every measure that the Red Cross tracks, the situation has worsened throughout the country for civilian casualties, internal displacement and health care access and all of it is “against the background of a proliferation of armed actors,”.

Who is a reasonable person to believe? The President of the United States, a duly elected former Chicago politician or one of the world’s leading charities?

The point of this post is not to argue who to believe, but to point out that today’s information battlefield is a dynamic one where neutrals and friendlies can mute the impact of even the most carefully orchestrated campaign and where it is impossible to color bad news as good in the 21st century.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Iraq: Post War Proves More Difficult Than The War

The US has already downsized its efforts and removed ‘combat’ forces from Iraq. Conceptually the departure of US combat forces was supposed to signal a new era of self-sufficiency, security and prosperity for Iraq and is people. The new era part may be true, but the rest of it is clearly in doubt.
Photo Source:

While the world watches new hot spots like Korea, continually festering ones like Afghanistan while trying to digest supposed revelations over Wikileaks , US forces are still preparing to deploy to Iraq where the number of troops hovers around 50,000 -- PSYOP (Military Information Support) personnel are among them.

I believe the MISO job in Iraq will be more difficult that it was support tactical combat operations and I believe it will be even more nuanced that the Afghanistan mission. MISO works best when it is based on truth and where there is some leverage in the mind of the intended audience. Information support of any kind cannot fix underlying problems. It can help to highlight achievements and can accentuate positive while reducing the negative, but it cannot alleviate underlying problems.
There are four critical problems that need to be addressed by the US and our allies so that the Iraqi people at least have a fair chance to establish a stable and prosperous environment. Here are the issues as I seem them (not necessarily in order).

1. Dreadful Economy
Unemployment in Iraq is reportedly high and there has been no influx of new opportunities to give Iraqi’s jobs. Unemployment is exacerbated by the fact that many Iraqi’s were dependent on US forces or contractors to US forces for their jobs and these sources have dried up as well.

2. Governmental Impotence
The Iraqi federal government is still in political tatters and appears unable to address the needs of the population (electrical power likely still being a big issue). Regional and local governments are likely to be no better off.

3. Increased Secular Conflict
Sunni, Shia and others seem to be in a state of turmoil fanned by insiders and outsiders.

4. Outside Influence
There appears to be undue influence by outsiders, especially Iran who delights in seeing a weak government. The security vacuum has also reopened the door for foreign ‘fighters’ to return and foster havoc as well.

In my view there are a couple of keys to success that must be explored even in the face of these four significant challenges. First of all, the US needs to insure dominance over the TV airwaves inside Iraq. This means developing on-going and mutually beneficial relationships with local and regional TV broadcasters. These relationships might include sharing of advanced journalistic techniques and technology (which ought to be spear headed by the Public Affairs Office) and spreading around of advertising dollars.

Secondly, credible spokes people need to be recruited and nurtured. There is no shortage of physical danger in Iraq, but there always seems to be a small core of people willing to stand-up for their beliefs. These are valuable resources and must be guarded and protected.

Third, if ever there was a time for the other Cabinet Departments to pitch in, it is now. State needs to insure that there is no shortage of coordinated public diplomacy, while Treasury, Commerce and Agriculture along with DHS need to provide their expertise to help Iraq regain its national strength.

NATO and other allies should be doing their fair share. Fair share here can mean economic support as well as military boots on the ground.

Finally the President and his advisers need to afford the Iraqi AO the priority it deserves to preserve the hard hardened gains and investment in blood and treasure we have already made.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PSYOP and North Korea? Are you talking to me?

I’ve been to the Republic of Korea (ROK) several times. Most of those visits were military ones. We used to say that the ROK and Allied forces there don’t ever have to worry about military exercises because they always have a fully funded Opfor (opposing force).

During one of my visits I learned that the ROK always referred to North Korea with a “k” so that it was abbreviated nK. I kind of liked that. During another of my military visits I took the bus tour into the DMZ. All tour participants from Yong San are given very strict instructions on what to wear, how to act, when to take photos, etc. The highlight of the tour is visiting the Panmunjom negotiating hut which straddles the DMZ. Tourists and I was no exception, like having their picture taken in North Korea.

The ROK government and especially the military have a profound appreciation for PSYOP and its cousin propaganda. False front stage like villages, balloons, cross border loud speaker broadcasts and thousands of leaflets all add to the mix. So there is no shortage of PSYOP expertise on either side.

North Korea kind of makes Cuba look like Disneyland by comparison. While you could argue that both are sort of closely held family businesses, Kim Jong Il sets the world standard for unpredictable and reclusive national leaders. The swirl of rumors and truths around his proclivities whether wives or brandy makes my head spin.

The shelling of Yeonpyeong Island earlier in November 2010 is the latest in string of incidents to include the sinking of an ROK Naval vessel and the famous tree incident of 18 August 1976. Every once in a while the nK government must just feel the need to do something to get the world’s attention.

Since nK is one of the most closed societies in the world and since the nK leadership is cloistered and secretive – what sort of influence operations (PSYOP) would make any sense at all?

This requires a bit of analysis and a lot of imagination. Strikes me that the nK leadership uses cell phones and computers while the overwhelming majority of the population doesn’t have access to either.

If it were me, I don’t think I would spend a lot of money or effort on generic or broad based efforts. Rather I would employ some CNE and some CNA with perhaps a touch of fax based messaging. The overarching effort would be designed to heighten paranoia within the leadership and to stimulate conflict a couple of levels down from the senior leadership – perhaps shaking the pyramid from the top.

I college friend of mine once told me it’s very difficult to give someone a hard time if they just don’t give a shit and it’s my believe that the “Dear Leader” doesn’t give a shit about world opinion.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mobilization - The Saga Continues

After my visit to Fort Hunter Liggett last week I got to pondering over the mobilization process and reflecting on my personal history of deployment.
Photo Source:

My first real active duty tour was in Viet Nam. It was my first assignment after two sets of schools and I received no special training prior to deployment. Our ROTC summer camp adopted a “You’re all going to Viet Nam” theme to stress the importance of tactical training. Frankly all I remember is one of our instructors used a famous picture of Raquel Welch as a training aid for mortar training.

The only other specific Viet Nam oriented training was at Fort Gordon, GA where the Southeastern Signal School ran an “Escape and Evasion” course where the new 2 LTs had three options: first choice was you successfully evaded the 82nd Airborne troops who were out to get you; second choice was you made it half way through the course over wooded and hilly terrain, checked in at the half way point and evaded capture; worst choice was you get captured and are subjected to ‘torture’ designed to help you resist such efforts by the enemy. One of my classmates was captured and had some severe muscle injury as a result.

Fast forward to 1997 when I was getting ready to go to Bosnia. We had several weeks at Fort Bragg where we learned useful things like how to clear a mine field and were then told never to go off the road. We left from Pope and ended up a former Mig Base in Tazar, Hungry we were in tents waiting for the bus ride from hell. Not that it was so long, but after the 25th time Mr. Bean gets rather old.

From a timing perspective I found out I was going sometime between April and May. Our orders and deployment started around 10 July. I arrived in Sarajevo on 31 July 1997 and left for home some time around Valentine’s Day 1998, with accumulated leave I was Released From Active Duty (REFRAD) around 9 March 1998 making for about 8 month’s total.

Today’s Reservist often finds out over a year in advance. They have several ‘gates’ they go through before deployment include some medical/dental checks. Yellow Ribbon (family support) events and some basic skills testing. Next comes a little more than 4 weeks at a Regional Training Center at Fot Hunter Liggett, Fort McCoy (WI) or scenic Fort Dix, NJ. This is followed by a break of about two weeks.

When the mobilization order kicks in the troops head for a Mobilization Unit In-processing Center (MUIC) for another 45 days worth of training. When all is said and done the troops are on the ground for about 9 months. The average dwell (stay at home) time is about 18 months.

This comes down to a 2 and ½ year planning cycle where the Reserve soldier has to balance family, military and civilian career. Civilian career time also includes any schooling – military or academic that the individual must accomplish.

This Herculean burden is one reason why the Reserve and the National Guard are often called “twice the soldier”.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mobilization Training – Realistic and Challenging

On Monday, November 15, 2010 I had the honor and pleasure of visiting with PSYOP troops training at the Fort Hunter Liggett, CA Regional Training Center. As many of my regular readers know, I am normally very cynical and a very hard grader.

Having said that – I was very impressed at the level of training and high level of morale and spirits of PSYOP soldiers going through an exercise called “The Shoot House”. Employing a crawl, walk, run philosophy soldiers are taught the dangerous and necessary job of clearing rooms and differentiating the friendlies from the enemies. Training starts with rooms blocked out on the ground and progresses through a paint ball simulated live fire exercise.

The facility itself is quite impressive. (Check out Being a technical guy I marveled at the cadre’s ability to edit video from 12 cameras into a cohesive after action report in the short time it would take the team that just went through the house to get to the AAR building. Chronologically organized video clips eliminate the uncertainty of who did what and offer an incredible learning tool.

The cadre performs an AAR with each team. The facility puts together a ‘take home’ package for the unit CDR so that he or she can take any additional remedial actions or schedule additional training needed before mobilization.

The house consists of 8 rooms and associated hallways. There are several scenarios that face each team accompanied by an array of sound effects. The OPFOR is played by a combination of live players and mannequins that are electronically controlled. The entire operation is supervised from an overhead catwalk to insure safety and to orchestrate the operation.

Instruction is done by military personnel while the facility is managed and maintained by civilian contractors. These contractors really get it! They understand how the training is supposed to work and seem to go the extra mile to see that their customers are getting first class service.

The use of paintball guns and protective gear added another dimension of realism. When you got hit – you knew you got it. Regrettably I didn’t get a chance to go through the house myself. I was hoping to be an embedded journalist for the experience, but time didn’t allow for it.

I did get the opportunity of presenting two CDR’s coins two outstanding soldiers on behalf of the Group Commander whose troops were being trained.

The CDR of the Regional Training Center (RTC) was kind enough to give me a briefing and we talked about realism in training. He explained how he is pressing for the use of Man Marking Rounds (MMR) such as those made by Simunition (see

There are some significant advantages to MMR over paintball: 1. Soldiers use their own weapons (albeit with a special bolt) and 2. Since the rounds leave different colored marks the source of the shot can be confirmed. There are some disadvantages as well one is safety since the MMR is travelling almost as fast as real ammo and cost: MMRs and Simunition rounds cost between .57 and .62 each while Paint ball rounds are only .03.

Overall this type of training is realistic and challenging. It is a great example of ‘train as you fight’ and I was delighted to take part in it!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Eating Your Own Dog Food

There’s a marketing expression “you have to eat your own dog food” which is used to express the notion that a company has to show its confidence in its product by using it. In many of my previous entries I have advocated Cyber PSYOP as a technique to be embraced to reach the 10% of a population that might be considered ‘elite’ influencers and/or to reach the more educated and affluent population.

As a resident of Silicon Valley I’m expected to be conversant with the latest trends.

I use Linkedin for my professional contacts and try to update my status as a way of letting my professional network know what I’m up to. It’s also subtle marketing by reminding those who get my updates of exactly what I am capable of doing so that they can steer some business my way.

Facebook on the other hand I use of people that would go out and have a coffee with. This doesn’t necessarily make you my bosom buddy, but the sociability aspects of Facebook ‘friends’ cannot be denied.

I have a Twitter account, but candidly haven’t spent any time futzing with it.

What does this have to do with PSYOP?

First of all I have created a PSYOP Facebook page. However, for reasons known only to the Facebook Gods I have had to call it the “Military Information Support Community” page. It’s part of eating your own dog food. I have total control over the Blog, but I’m curious as to how a Facebook page might evolve as a communication media for the Community. There is a Linkedin PSYOP Group, but the flavor is not community – it has a distinct business tone to it.

Check it out!

Social Networks are a source of intelligence. They can provide interesting information and images of groups and individuals. This data, like any other potential intelligence must be evaluated for its credibility, likelihood of truth, etc.

No two target audiences will employ social networking in the same way. They might use the same sites such as Facebook, MySpace, etc depending on which site is the most popular or best suited for their purposes. For the most part I believe postings are intended to be seen. While there may be covert meanings to overt messages, the poster wants the message to be seen.

Investigators and others routinely adopt pseudonyms and alternative characteristics to investigate and prowl social networks. The November 10, 2010 San Jose Mercury News reported about a Pacific Gas & Electric director who was spying on opponents of smart electric meters (see ) using false names.

So commenting on posting, setting up pages, etc. can be a way to reach selected targets.

Twitter is a different beast. Tweets can reveal quite a bit about a target and Twitter can also serve as as a transmit medium as well.

PSYOPers need to be sure that they understand the dynamics of the target environment (read that geography) so that they don’t overlay their own personal prejudices and habits from the own personal social network use.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Council of Colonels - Our Tribal Elders

The PSYOP Council of Colonels (COC) is an informal body composed of the Commanders of the PSYOP, now Military Information Support Troop Units: 2nd PSYOP Group, 4th Military Information Support Group, 7th PSYOP Group and the Joint Information Support Command (JMISC).

Photo Source:

The COC is supposed to be the place where troop unit CDR address topics of mutual interest and share thoughts to serve the community. In recent years the COC has brought in outside speakers when they felt it would be helpful.
As is often the case with informal groups, progress can sometimes be personality dependent and at times, individuals put their personal agendas and goals over the good of the community. This was reportedly the case at the most recent COC held at Fort Bragg on Tuesday 26 October prior to Regimental Week.

On Friday, October 28, 2010 I had breakfast with another retired senior PSYOP leader. He described the process that worked while he was a part of the COC. I’m highlighting that process here in hopes that members of the COC and their staffs might take a look at it, and consider adopting it or some alternatives that would insure a more harmonious, progressive and collegial environment for the COC going forward.

The COC is more important today than ever before. Not just because the force is under tremendous pressure and the challenge of encroachment by IO, but because we simply do not have a single chain of command and the COC is now the ‘brain’ of the regiment.

Setting: Meetings are held in ‘neutral’ venues and cities.
Frequency: Meetings are held on a quarterly basis.
Time Frame: Meetings should start with a dinner on Friday night, continue all day Saturday and conclude with a dinner designed to tie up loose ends and insure the way forward. An optional breakfast could be held Sunday morning before everyone departed.
Uniform: Civilian Clothes

Based on my own personal experience, it makes sense to invite the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment (HCOR) to at least one meeting a year, even if he/she is a non-voting member. This insures continuity and the HCOR might be able to provide a neutral and or historical perspective when appropriate.
Hopefully the COC will continue to serve the good of the whole Regiment as we move ahead.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

State of the Regiment - 28 October 2010 - Fort Bragg

Today was the second day of the 2010 PSYOP Regimental Week hosted by the 4th Military Information Support Group (MISG). The final portion of the program was devoted to honoring two winners of the Gold McClure Award, the highest award to be presented to PSYOP professionals. I'm humbled to say that I received the first production award (three prototype medals were given out last year) and that COL (R) Jack Summe former CDR of the JPSE (later JMISC) and 4th POG was the other.

I was asked to present a "State of the Regiment" address.

I am pleased to provide the text for those of you unable to attend:

“State of the Regiment”

28 October 2010

Good Afternoon Brothers and Sisters of the Regiment.

I am humbled to have served as your Regimental Honorary Colonel since 2003.
This is my first and last “State of the Regiment” and while I will address the PSYOP brand in a few moments, the program over the past day and a half has caused me to change my prepared remarks somewhat to take advantage of this ‘target of opportunity’ of having all y’all in the room.

First, let me address the name change, in listening to all the talk yesterday, it occurred to me that the name change is like the mating of elephants – it’s done and high levels and needs to be executed very carefully.

Turning to yesterday’s keynote, it is clear to me that BG Sacolick is the first SWC Commander in my memory, which in view of my grey and lack of hair is quite long, to really ‘get it. On behalf of the Regiment, we look forward to great things together.
Next I would like to address IO. Monday I gave a talk in the CyLab series at Carnegie Mellon Institute. My topic was “The Civilian Perspective of Cyber War” and my analysis was built upon my military background in SIGINT, EW, and crypto and from a career of information security marketing. I also have PAO background serving as a volunteer PAO for my local Red Cross Chapter and working three major exercises at DINFOS, the PAO school.

Having said all that, I believe we need to look at the information battle space from the perspective of our customer – the Commander. He or she wants to bring to bear all the weapons at their disposal on the target.

PSYOP is the CDR’s weapon to directly influence the population while PAO is the indirect influence weapon by reaching the target audiences through the media. These two must work in concert to be effective.

In the case of urban areas, and more elite target audiences, Cyber PSYOP combined with CNA and CNE will be brought to bear.

Unfortunately, most CDR do not have the requisite skills to orchestrate all this and more. They will turn to their staff to see who can do this best for them.

I hope that it will be our Regiment, those of you sitting out there who step forward. If not, we will always be relegated to a junior varsity status.

Now on to my prepared remarks. I have four key points that I would like to go over with you:
• The Name Change and the PSYOP Brand
• Today’s PSYOP soldier
• A Fragmented Force and Unity of Command
• The Future of the Regiment

The Name Change and The Brand

We are in the midst of what can be considered an unpopular decision to change the branch name. We are past the point of debating whether it is a good idea or a bad one. Our superiors have issued the order, and so we will carry it out.

Having worked in High Tech marketing for Symantec, a devoutly brand conscious organization; let me offer some advice about our new “brand” going forward. Rest assured that our adversaries and enemies know who we are and what we do. They will continue to do whatever they can to deny us the high ground of the information battlefield, no matter what we decide to call ourselves.

The Branch name or brand is a tool to help influence our customers, allies, and as we painfully learned yesterday - Congress. Our branch name needs to convey what we do simply, clearly and in a memorable positive way. Pandering to political correctness or developing some random sequence of words or acronym will not suffice.

“ Influence operations” is what we do; we help CDR achieve their objectives by influencing the local population to behave in the way most conducive to the execution of the mission at hand. Our new name needs to convey our abilities instantly and connote the professionalism and spirit of the Regiment so that every soldier can be proud of it.

Today’s PSYOP Soldier

Today’s PSYOP Soldier is performing admirably. Success on the battlefield has resulted in greater demand for PSYOP skills. This in turn has resulted in a high and perhaps unsustainable Optempo. Yet our soldiers continue to deploy and they continue to perform in an outstanding fashion on the battlefield, in the embassy, on the streets of foreign lands.

Tomorrow’s PSYOP Soldier will need to be even more versatile and more resilient than today’s. As usual we are always more prepared to fight the last war. While it is dangerous to forecast the future, I personally believe that we will see future military actions in a variety of ‘undeveloped’ countries ranging from Africa to Asia and we are likely to see increased demand for influence operators closer to home in Latin America.

No matter where we are asked to deploy, the basic PSYOP skill will still be on the street. PSYOP soldiers will always function in foreign cultures and work with a myriad of languages both common and obscure. However, as we continue to battle hostile non-state actors and as they employ the Internet and smart phones, we will have to transition our messages to these new media in order to block recruitment, interdict plans and influence the educated and affluent who have access to these technologies.

BG Sacolick’s selection process for PSYOP is a needed step forward to insuring that our Regiment is manned by the most qualified personnel. A by-product of the selection process is the increased espirit de corps that comes from such a selection process.
Having said this is a good idea, it is clear to me that it is a baby step along the path we need to take and which brings me to my next topic:

A Fragmented Force and Unity of Command

Our Army PSYOP forces are split into three separate chains of command. The JMISC reports to the Commander of USSOCOM, the 4th MISG reports to ASOC and the two Reserve POGs report up the Army Reserve Chain of Command.

To say this set up is ludicrous is to be kind. The greenest 2nd LT is well aware of the principle of unity of command. The world we live in is a complex and dangerous place. Our adversaries know no rules and no borders, yet our PSYOP forces serve multiple masters and we are hobbled by it.

If SecDef Gates had the time to bless a name change, he and his staff need to correct the wrong of splitting the force. I don’t propose to speak for our brothers and sisters in CA, but the time has come to put USACAPOC back under ASOC so that there is a single chain of command upwards to SOCOM.

This would position Admiral Olson as the top dog in PSYOP and as such it is overdue for a PSYOP BG to Command all PSYOP forces regardless of their component. We also need to recognize that our organizational model must account for the spectrum of influence operations. Just as Corporate Marketing is responsible for brand management and insuring consistency across the corporation, SOCOM and perhaps the JMISC should be recognized as the ‘strategic lead’.

I could not have delivered a more powerful argument for this approach than Roger Smith’s outstanding presentation on the Trans Regional Web Initiative which should serve as a good example for all to see. It showed how corporate type marketing can maintain standards and consistency and allow Regional Influence Forces would be to localize messages and materials as necessary for their AOs under this umbrella of consistency.

His presentation also made a case for saying that it makes sense to centralize Cyber PSYOP as a force. The global nature of the Internet does not require local presence. The specialized technical and creative skills needed to exploit the on-line world can be centralized and available as needed. The Cyber PSYOP force needs to work closely with the Cyber Command to optimize Cyber PSYOP doctrine and to avoid information fratricide and to insure that it employees the latest in cyber defense, hardware, software and techniques.

The Future of the Regiment
Let me turn now to the future of the Regiment. While we are a relatively new branch, we have a proud history. What we lack is a strong association. While both the PSYOP Veterans Association and the PSYOP Association continues their work under their respective charters. The BLUF is that we need a popularly supported and financially viable regimental association.

The CA and SF Regiments have exemplary associations that attend to soldier welfare, preserve the lore and history of the branch and help to tell their Regimental stories to Congress.

Experience has taught that merely merging the current associations is not a satisfactory solution. A new organization needs to be created that is beholden to no particular constituency and that can be supported and driven by the serving force. While the retired force and other Regimental supporters can help, the burden on building membership rests with those who serve.

Before I close, let me offer a bit of guidance and advice to the Council of Colonels. For better or worse you are the senior PSYOP leadership and must act as such. Drop you personal patches and agendas at the door when you meet and act for the good of the Regiment. As our serving leadership, you owe nothing less to the troops.
Also, don’t be afraid to seek counsel from other quarters. My predecessor, COL (R) Al Paddock has been a strong supporting force to me as those who have preceded you can offer their insight and wisdom to you.

It has been my honor to serve the Regiment as a soldier and as your Honorary Colonel and I will continue to do so in the future. I’m pleased to say that my PSYOPRegiment.blogspot has been doing well, thanks in part to the name change, and thanks to the Internet, old soldiers don’t even have to fade away anymore, they will always be on the Internet.
Thank You.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Regimental Week 2010: Coming Attractions

When I was a young lad growing up in Brooklyn I used to love going to the movies on Saturday. In retrospect I’m not sure which I liked more the movies or the candy. Next week I’m off to Fort Bragg for PSYOP Regimental Week. You can find the official press release from the US Army Special Operations Command at:

For me this will be a bittersweet occasion as it will be my last one as the Honorary Colonel of the PSYOP Regiment. Surely the time has come for another senior PSYOP officer to assume this honorary role and I’m delighted that the designee will be an outstanding bridge between PSYOP of the past and military influence operations of the future.

Strangely enough I found out about the ‘replacement’ quite by accident – that fact speaks to the nascent nature of the PSYOP Regiment and the need to attend to military custom.

I’m looking forward to the program which will include updates from the Groups, the Joint Military Information Support Command and our sister services. I’m also looking forward to touring the Media Operations Center and seeing the latest and the greatest and comparing what they have to what I see in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Most of all I’m looking forward to mingling with the troops and learning about what is really happening in the field. While I’m a very hard grader and am rather tough to excite, I am always gratified by the level of our PSYOP soldiers and their ability to perform in an outstanding manner under the most adverse of circumstances.

I’ll be working on my “State of the Regiment” talk over the next few days. Some key messages I’m considering are:
• The PSYOP Brand – what do we really need?
• Today’s PSYOP soldier
• Unity of Command: why don’t we have it and what do we need to do to get it?
• The Future of the Regiment
Field input is encouraged!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pondering PSYOP and Papiamento

The Blog has been silent for a few weeks because my wife and I have been on a 2 week cruise through the Panama Canal. We made a pact and turned the iPhones off and locked them in the room safe from the time we got on the boat until we disembarked at San Juan on Monday, 11 October 2010. We were also off the grid so if I didn’t know something or wanted to learn more I had to go about it in the old fashioned way.

We left San Diego made 3 stops in Mexico and 1 stop in Cost Rica before transiting the Panama Canal. Our last two ports of call were Aruba and Curacao. Our visit coincided with Curacao’s last day as a part of the Netherlands Antilles; on 10/10/10 they would become an independent country within the kingdom of the Netherlands.
As we drove around I thought about this unique island as a PSYOP venue.

In some respects it would be an ideal PSYOP venue as it is not very big, but has a literate population that has access to mass media including Internet (free Wifi is a selling point for restaurants) and of course TV and radio. Curacao radio has some interesting aspects including the first use of solar power by Radio Hoyer.

From a cultural perspective there is an affinity for the Netherlands of course, and a sibling relationship with Aruba, Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustatius and Saint Maarten sister islands from the former Netherlands Antilles.

While seemingly idyllic, the island also has its own language, Papiamento which is described as ”a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, and it also has some Arawak Indian and African influence.” (see
It struck me that a Curacao like construct might be an innovative PSYOP practical exercise because it would involve a variety of key ingredients: unique language and culture, connection to a European nation, modern communications, variety of ethnicities and proximity to a significant Communist nation – Venezuela. In fact the floating market in Curacao consists of Venezuelan products sold by Venezuelan citizens.

While I recognize the need to focus on today’s conflicts, case studies and hypothetical situations such as might be symbolized by Curacao are worthy of consideration as teaching tools to help foster creative thinking and build skills without the constraints of today’s battlefields. Creative thinking is the way that PSYOPers have fought in the past and will do so in the future. Being able to apply a variety of tools and techniques in an unstructured environment is often the key to success.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ahoy - On The Seas

The Blog and I are taking a couple of weeks off - on a cruise thru the Panama Canal. Back on line mid October.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Social Media PSYOP - Overrated?

There is no question that social media is a hot topic. Everyone from marketing and sales gurus to attorneys are pondering the implications of social media and how to harness this new medium to achieve their own goals.

On September 7, 2010 the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement published an article entitled “Psychological Warfare in the Social Media Era: Winning Hearts and Minds through Facebook and Twitter” by Nick Younker (

Mr. Younker contends that “Harnessing and controlling messages distributed via the internet and social media will be a next big battleground to win the heart and minds of the world’s masses regardless of who is the enemy of the day. The question of which nations will control and push out the message most effectively will become increasingly important. One thing is clear; whoever controls the message controls the masses. And whoever controls the masses will have the ability to win future wars.”

First of all, while the Internet and Social Media in particular seem to be obsessions in the ‘developed’ world and while addiction to texting and other total connectivity is running rampant, not everyone is plugged in.

In many current and potential AOs the Internet is as out of reach as the stars. Rural people are facing the challenge of feeding their families, finding clean water to drink and staying healthy. So I don’t regard Social Media PSYOP or even Cyber PSYOP as a silver bullet able to effectively target every enemy or adversary.

Having said that however, social media is important and must be addressed. This is a classic case where a CONUS based specialized unit could be the DOD or the US government “Center of Excellence for On-Line Influence”. As such messages could be targeted to specific audiences and technology would be constantly updated and where there would be no constraint on bandwidth.

This (God help me) Government Information Support Operations (GISO) unit would be composed of DOD, Department of State and augmented by other personnel from the DOJ, Commerce and perhaps treasury.

To be effective it would have to be served by an all source intelligence center which would be plugged into the respective departmental intelligence sources , commercial and academic resources (e.g. Carnegie Mellon).

The center would also have a PAO component which would be responsible for its own content and messaging and serve as the conduit of appropriate information and messages to and from on-line and perhaps traditional media.

Of course the prerequisite for establishing such a center is an overarching strategy for the use of on-line media by the US Government – something that appears to be a long way off.

PSYOP Book Review - Courtesy of COL (R) Al Paddock

American Guerrilla: A Review

By SWJ Editors

"American Guerrilla: The Forgotten Heroics of Russell W. Volckmann--the Man Who Escaped from Bataan, Raised a Filipino Army Against The Japanese, and Became the True 'Father' of Army Special Forces." Mike Guardia, Casemate, 2010, Casemate, 226 pages, $32.95.

In American Guerrilla: The Forgotten Heroics of Russell W. Volckmann, Mike Guardia seeks to demonstrate the contributions of Russell Volckmann and his guerrillas in the successful outcome of the US campaign to retake the Philippines from the Japanese during World War II; and, secondly, to establish Volckmann as the true father of Army Special Forces--"a title that history has erroneously awarded to Colonel Aaron Bank." He does an adequate job with the first goal, but his second attempt is flawed.

Guardia tells the story of Volckmann's adventures in the Philippines in a workmanlike manner, and he deserves plaudits for uncovering his "war diary" from the Volckmann family, as well as some of his other primary source research. However, in stating that "the historiography of the guerrilla war in the Philippines is comparatively narrow, he omits some important published sources in his bibliography. These include. These include "Lieutenant Ramsey's War," by Edwin Price Ramsey and Stephen J. Rivele, and "The Intrepid Guerrillas of North Luzon," by Bernard Norling. Norling, a history professor at Notre Dame University for over 35 years, also co-authored other books on resistance movements in the Philippines. His work on the subject is authoritative.

While Guardia confines his tale to Volckmann's role in northern Luzon, the story of Wendell Fertig's accomplishments in the Japanese-occupied island of Mindano is also impressive. At its peak, Fertig commanded an army of 35,000 men, and headed the civil government in one of the largest islands in the world. His accomplishments are told in a novel-like fashion in John Keats' "They Fought Alone: A True Story of a Modern American Hero." Both Volckmann and Fertig later would play leading roles in the development of Army Special Forces.

The author's story of Volckmann's years in the Philippines constitutes the bulk of his book; chapters 1-10 (out of 12), 140 pages. While well-written, it is familiar to those who have read Volckmann's memoir and some of the sources in the author's bibliography. He also overuses entries from Volckmann's war diary, many of which are mundane ("19-24 December 1943. Nothing exciting.")

Guardia claims that "Volckmann's most significant contribution may lie in what he accomplished AFTER the war" [Author's emphasis]. Yet he devotes only eight pages to Chapter 11, which deals primarily with Volckman's experience during the Korean War, and nine pages to Chapter 12, "Special Forces." It is in his seminal chapter on Special Forces that the author goes astray.

Particularly perplexing is Guardia's diminishment of the importance of Brigadier General Robert A. McClure's role in the development of Special Forces. In late August 1950, after outbreak of the Korean War, Department of Army G-3 Major General Charles Bolte requested McClure's assistance in setting up an office for psychological warfare on the Army staff. (the term, psychological operations, did not come into general usage until the 1960s). McClure had been responsible for Allied psychological warfare in World War II, first in North Africa, then in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) under General Eisenhower. The latter was designated the Psychological Warfare Division, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces (PWD/SHAEF), not the "US Army Psychological Warfare Branch in Europe," as stated by Guardia. The difference is significant; McClure's PWD combined both an operational and staff function for the psychological warfare activities of ALL Allied forces--NOT just the US Army.

In his first staff meeting of what eventually became entitled the Office of the Chief of Psychological Warfare (OCPW), McClure stated that General Bolte agreed with him that unconventional warfare did not belong in G-3 and should be transferred to the OCPW. His association with William Donovan, head of the OSS in World War II, gave him an appreciation for a behind-the-lines capability in the event of war with the Soviet Union. McClure, however, knew that his expertise lay primarily in psychological warfare, so he brought into the OCPW personnel like Volckmann, Aaron Bank, and Wendell Fertig, to develop what became known as the Special Forces Concept. In other words, McClure came to his new job convinced that the Army needed an unconventional warfare capability similar to that of the OSS. It was his leadership and dogged persistence with senior military and civilian Army officials that made it possible for Special Forces to come to fruition.

Guardia overstates the effect of Volckmann's memorandum forwarded to the Army chief of staff following his attendance at a conference at Fort Benning's Infantry School. That memo was indeed important in the chain of events leading up to formation of the 10th Special Forces Group, but it was done with the knowledge and direction of BG McClure. In other words, Volckmann did not go "straight to the chief of staff," as Guardia states. Nor was it Volckmann who "ultimately won the blessings of the Army Chief of Staff and secured the establishment of the Army's first special operations unit: the 10th Special Forces Group." The path to the final concept for Special Forces arrived at by Volckmann, his colleagues, and McClure, was lengthy, tortuous, and marked by controversy. It was a considerably more complex process than that described by the author.

And this statement by the author requires rebuttal: "Reviewing Volckmann's contribution to the development of Special Forces, it begs the question of why he receives virtually no recognition for his involvement and why history has given the lion's share of the credit to Aaron Bank." This is inaccurate. If Guardia had carefully read my "US Army Special Warfare: Its Origins," either the 1982 edition--which is included in his bibliography--or the revised 2002 edition, he would have seen that I give Volckmann credit as THE principal architect in McClure's employ for the development of what eventually became known as the "Special Forces Concept." Indeed, his name is cited no fewer than 15 times in my text, which also includes his photo. Over many years, I and other authors have repeatedly extolled the unconventional warfare experience of those personnel who served in the Philippines. Volckmann's contributions to the creation of Special Forces are well known among Special Forces veterans and scholars. He is hardly "unknown," as Guardia claims.

My own research has not revealed the rationale for McClure's decision to choose Aaron Bank from his OCPW staff, rather than Volckmann, as the first commander of the 10th Special Forces Group, established concurrently with the Psychological Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, NC, in mid-1952. One may presume, however, a couple of reasons. First, the Army's primary concern--even while fighting a conflict in Korea--was preparation for a possible war with the Soviet Union in Europe. Thus the 10th was targeted to support that potential conflict. Second, OSS organizational principles underlay the initial configuration of the 10th. Bank had served with the OSS in Europe. There is no question that Volckmann's wartime experience and analytical work in guerrilla warfare far exceeded that of Bank, but these qualifications may have not offset the latter's service with OSS in Europe.

Whatever the reasons for his selection, Bank did an admirable job of organizing and training the 10th, both at Fort Bragg and after its deployment to Germany. After retirement from the Army, Bank remained active with the Special Forces community, which selected him as its first honorary colonel of the regiment. Then there is the fact that Bank became the "Father of Army Special Forces" by Congressional decree, an omission by the author.

Another inaccuracy is Guardia's description of the Table of Organization and Equipment that Bank created for the 10th Special Forces Group. He states that Bank "suggested a derivative of the Operational Group concept from the OSS." According to Guardia, Bank created a three-tiered Special Forces group organization of A, B, and C detachments, with the A detachment of 12 personnel as the basic operational unit. In fact, the basic unit in the 10th originally was a 15-man Operational Detachment, Regiment, commanded by a captain, and configured basically with the same personnel skills as the OSS 15-man Operational Group (OG). The next level up was the Operational Detachment, District B, commanded by a major; then the Operational Detachment, District A, commanded by a lieutenant colonel. The A, B, and C structure of Special Forces came into being later.

Then there is this particularly egregious proclamation by the author: "It would also not be appropriate to bestow McClure with the title, 'Father of Special Forces." I agree; McClure's contributions were much broader in scope, and applied to both psychological warfare and Special Forces. Indeed, if during his visit to Fort Bragg Guardia had ambled over to the headquarters of the US Army Special Operations Command, he would have seen this plaque mounted at its entrance: "IN MEMORY OF MG ROBERT ALEXIS McCLURE, 4 MAR 1897-1 JAN 1957, THE FATHER OF ARMY SPECIAL WARFARE, BUILDING DEDICATED 19 JANUARY 2001." Above the entrance, in large letters, is etched: "MG ROBERT A. McCLURE BUILDING," and his portrait is prominently displayed in the headquarters building lobby. Without the vision, dedication, and energy of McClure, there would have been no Special Forces and no Psychological Warfare Center at Fort Bragg in 1952--the foundation for today's Army Special Warfare Center and its Special Operations Command.

Further marring Guardia's text is the fact that his endnotes in Chapters 11 and 12 bear no correlation to those in the "Notes" section at the rear of his book. As a further mystery, while he indicates 47 endnotes in his Epilogue, they do not appear in the "Notes" section, all of which indicates a woeful lack of careful editing by the author and his publisher.

In sum, while the author's treatment of Volckmann's experience in the Philippines is reasonably well-written, it breaks little new ground. More important, his justification that the title of "Father of Special Forces rightly belongs to Russell William Volckmann" is superficial, inaccurate, and unprofessionally documented. For these reasons, I do not recommend this book for the general reader, for special operations personnel, or for serious scholars.