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: http://www.usar.army.mil/arweb/History/Pages/NMAR.aspx

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 http://www.liggett.army.mil/sites/aboutcstc/aboutcstc.asp). 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 http://www.simunition.com/cartridges/fx_training_en.php).

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 http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_16575862?nclick_check=1 ) 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: http://www.ctsi.nsn.us/warm-springs-umpqua-tillamook-siletz-government/molalla-salishan-santiam-siletz-council/members

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.