Friday, February 26, 2010

Shared Frequencies Can Lead To Interesting Dialogue

Back in the olden days of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT)(circa 1982) I commanded the 519th Army Security Agency Company. In those days Army Intelligence consisted of ASA which was the SIGINT/Electronic Warfare/Cryptographic arm and separate branch which dealt with Human Intelligence, Image Intelligence and Counter Intelligence. The ASA patch appears in this entry. It was sometimes referred to as either the “lightening fast chicken flicker” or the “Massachusetts Power & Light Company” (due to the ASA Training Center location at Fort Devens, MA)

During one of our Annual Training (AT) periods we took part in Exercise Celtic Cross held at Fort Hunter Liggett, CA. Our company was tasked to provide SIGINT support to the Marine Task Force which was the Red (Enemy) Force ‘fighting’ the Blue (Friendly) Force, the 7th Infantry Division.

As the CO I was based with the Regimental Task Force CDR, commanded by COL Henry C. “Hank” Stackpole III, USMC (who ultimately retired as a Lieutenant General). Marine officers are the hardest working of all services IMHO. As a part of the HQ I was actively engaged in the Command Operation Center’s (COC) operations. While visiting with the Radio Operators a number of them told me that they could overhear what the Army was saying on their radios because we all shared a limited frequency spectrum.
Marines are hard charging innovators; these radio operators became SIGINT operatives in a heartbeat and provided valuable information that helped us plan our operations against the Blue Force.

Fast forward to 2010 to an ABC article on February 25, 2010 entitled: Trash Talking the Taliban During Fights ( It seems that the Afghan national Army and the Taliban often find themselves on the same frequency. This strange turn of events offers a venue where debate, argument and old fashioned trash talking can occur.
It strikes me that this is a golden opportunity, an opportunity that needs to be exploited systematically as a credible and powerful means of influencing the Taliban. If it were my mission, I would recruit a select number of Afghan soldiers and have them specially trained by SF and PSYOP personnel. I would engage them in dialogue prior to the training to determine the nature of previous engagements and to ascertain what messages, appeals and arguments seem to have the most traction. I would then compile the best practices and most effective messages into a training program and perhaps into some audio or video CDs that could be studied at the student’s convenience. I might offer up the incentive of an iPod with MP3 files and videos as a means of encouraging Afghan personnel to take part in the trash talk offensive.

This is a cost effective and high impact program that needs to be implemented ASAP. Furthermore, research needs to be undertaken to see if there are any other current or potential areas of operation where similar influence offensives could be executed or planned for.

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