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.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Welcoming New Members To The Regiment

Greetings from "the Center of the Universe", Fort Bragg, NC.

I have have had the honor and privilege of addressing the most recent PSYOP graduates. For these week's Blog Entry I'm pleased to offer an unedited version of the speech I intended to give.

I say intended to give because I changed some of it on the fly when I was standing at the podium in front of the troops.

Good Morning,
First of all congratulations for completing the course and welcome to the Regiment.
I know that you are all thrilled to have a guest speaker standing between you and your return trip to Fort Bragg.
Since we are in the field there won’t be any PowerPoint, but let me give you some key messages up front:

1. What you do is important.
2. The profession of influence is becoming more critical as an instrument of State craft every day.
3. You have the incredible luck to be a part of a profession that is evolving even now and that will help you develop skills that will help no matter where you go.

The influence profession is far different from any other aspect of arms. Rather than measure your success in body count, your success comes from changing behavior. In order to change that behavior, you will have to:

* Be culturally astute – meaning being aware and sensitive to the environment around you.
* Learn selling skills to help you persuade people to act as you would like them to act.
* Exude street smarts as you watch out for your own and your buddy’s security.

Some of you will serve in HQ, others supporting tactical units, others in embassies and many of you will walk the streets of foreign lands, some filled with people who have already decided that you don’t belong there. Yet you will have to employ the skills you have learned here at Fort Bragg as well as the people skills that you brought with you.

Wherever you go, innovation will be the norm and you will likely be ‘out of the box’ more than you will be in the box in terms of strict military thinking.

It will not be easy, you will be acting beyond on your pay grade and you will often need to stand out as a voice of reason. You may find that senior officers, especially General Officers are clueless as to what they can or should do to influence target audiences and it will be up to you set them straight.
Let me give you a personal example, I call it the case of money doesn’t grow on trees.

* Tell The BG Johnny Torenz Spence story

Let me share another story, I call this one the case of the pink church.

* Tell The Wesley Clark Story

It is also vital that you know your capabilities and resources because you may be called upon to use them to literally alter history.

* Tell The Bosnia Election Story

As the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, let me give you my perspective on the state of the regiment today.

The professionals who serve in the influence profession are at the top of their game. Many nations have recognized the importance of PSYOP as shown by our allied colleagues in this class. Only the brightest are assigned to these coveted jobs. On the individual level the Regiment is in great shape because those who have come before you were and are the consummate professionals in their work.

At the Macro level, however, things aren’t so good. Our forces are split between two separate GO chains of command violating one of the military’s sacred principles - unity of command. We also lack a single, powerful Regimental association similar to other branches.

We need an association that can insure that our traditions and history are preserved, that our soldiers and their families are cared for and that, among other things, would keep Congress informed as to the importance of our missions and the need for funding.

We are currently served by two associations. The PSYOP Association or POA which distributes the Front Post e-mail as a frequent beacon of light into PSYOP events and publishes Perspectives Magazine publishes with articles from an international base of authors.

The second association is the PSYOP Veterans Association or POVA provides support to PSYOP professionals through hosting reunions, publishing their informative newsletter, Credibilis and by participating in selected events at Fort Bragg. The POVA website is

To be candid, neither of these associations is very big, powerful, nor financially endowed. As a key element of nation craft we owe it to our selves to build a Regimental Association that can provide the type of support and continuity provided by other Associations. Merely combining what we have will simply not meet our growing needs.

We are also dealing with an unpopular name change. I urge you to resist the temptation to attend a name change pity party and to raise above the pettiness and forge on with the vital missions we perform. I’ve seen this movie before. The former SIGINT/EW branch was called the Army Security Agency, any there was much doom and gloom over that entity merging with other side of MI to form a cohesive and overarching branch. We will get over the MISO change as well, and please don’t waste your precious time lamenting it. You have the order, now move on.

Let me turn to the future of PSYOP.

The star of “IO” or Information Operations within the US military seems to ebb and flow. Orchestration of all the information resources available to the CDR seems to be for the most part an elusive dream and squabbling over career positioning has hampered many CDR’s ability to synergize their information resources. However, the doctrine train has left the station and there are continuous moves to codify the jobs and doctrine within IO to try mainstream it.

Make no mistake, IO is coming down the road and there are two key aspects for us. First of all, we are going to have to work more closely with PAO because they need us and we need them. As I have learned functioning as the PSYOP Subject Matter Expert for the DINFOS (the school that trains PAO personnel at Fort Meade), PAO works with and through the media while we are able to get our messages directly to the citizens or military force facing us. Neither we, nor PAO can fully support the CDR alone.

We also must adapt the CNO aspects of IO to generate first class Cyber PSYOP and PsyActs when the time and targets are right for this evolving medium.

Lastly, your work in PSYOP will allow you to work with a full spectrum of people, sometimes you will work with individuals who are among the finest history has to offer. In my case I had the honor of presenting the Gold OpInfo Badge, the Bundeswahr’s hightest PSYOP award to MG Werner Widder, who was the COS at SFOR, but more than that he was a statesman with the good of NATO at heart.

Consider yourselves fortunate to be a part of the elite profession of influence. You will have to be as conversant with a loudspeaker as you are texting, blogging, or drawing cartoons to communicate with an illiterate population.

PSYOP will help you learn and hone valuable skills that will serve you long after you put your uniform on for the last time. The ability to influence people from varied walks of life and in different locations will serve you well in your post military career and in sometimes mediating those family ‘issues’ that come up from time to time.

Enjoy these moments after completing your course and look forward to a new horizon of learning and influencing people. In closing, let me leave you with this quote from President Theodore Roosevelt:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

"Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910
Good luck in the Arena and Thank You.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Words of Wisdom

I have been honored by being asked to speak at a PSYOP Regimental induction ceremony. I'm working on the presentation, but thought I would ask my readers in the Blog-o-sphere for input.

Input, ideas and suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Combat Mission Over Declares PSYOPer-in-Chief

President Obama, the PSYOPer –in-Chief declared that combat operations are over in a White House speech delivered at 8 PM Eastern time on August 31, 2010 and which can be found at:

(Photo Source: The White House)

He is of course the second US President to declare a “mission accomplished” of sorts, but what did the President really say and what does it mean to the influence operations community?

First, the departure of ‘combat’ units was chronicled far and wide and the President was kind to recognize the achievements of service personnel in executing whatever tasks they were given – “At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. As Commander-in-Chief, I am incredibly proud of their service. And like all Americans, I’m awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families.”

The President also noted that he kept his campaign promise, he too has to be re-elected of course. He went on to add that “This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security”. The speech goes on to say that there is a transition force and that the military draw down will be paralleled by a ramp up of “dedicated civilians”.

A bit over half way through the direction turned to the sorry state of the US economy and the need to more or less stop spending on war and spend on ourselves, or so it seemed to me.
Various sources peg the number of troops in Iraq at around 50,000, not a trivial number by any means.
Where does that leave MISO forces?

First of all the absence of a warfighter means that influence operations must shift gears dramatically to shore up US Department of State and other efforts and to document and publicize successes in a credible and forceful way to help the Iraqi population appreciate the efforts of the US and our allies.

Most importantly “someone” must work with local and regional media to help them upgrade their efforts and to insure that standards of fair and impartial journalism govern the media. This may require out of the box thinking. Lack of warfighters may also mean a lack of PAO resources and since the PAO is the CDR’s representative to foreign media this means that the Department of State must step up to the plate.
Having said that, select MISO NCOs and officers may be just the right candidates to help mentor journalists as long as those journalists are not tarred by the brush of working with the US military.

The post-combat MISO mission promises to be more complex , challenging and probably more dangerous. Hopefully the chain of command understands that in the real world campaign promises don’t count for much.