Tuesday, June 16, 2009

State of the Regiment

I have had a couple of weeks to savor the experience of Regimental Week at Fort Bragg and on reflect on the State of the PSYOP Regiment in general.

To quote Dickens “These are the best of times, these are the worst of times.” The PSYOP Optempo is breathtaking. No matter your assigned POG, you are going to be a part of the war some time soon – and often thereafter. Reservists can expect to re-deploy 18 months after they return and the Optempo on the active side is intense as well. The fact that the 4th POG guidon is deployed down range is evidence of the PSYOP commitment to National Defense.

PSYOP forces have experienced the tragedy of KIA and continue to prove their mettle on the battlefield. The Regiment has taken a giant first step with the first awarding of the Gold MG Robert A. McClure award to COL (R) Al Paddock; COL (R) Jeff Jones, COL (R)Frank King and LTC (R) Joseph Meisner. Each of these outstanding individuals has dedicated a life time to PSYOP and deserving of the award.

While the maturation of the Branch through the award is a positive step forward, there is still much to do.

At the top of my list is the need to reunite AC and RC forces under the same command. The split of command responsibility between USSOCOM and “the Big Army” is a mistake. As one well placed Pentagon official put it during branch week “there must be transparency of capability” to best serve the force. Hopefully DOD is moving ahead in this direction.

Second is the need for community leadership through the CDR of POG troop units, the Regiment and PSYOP Associations. It is my belief that the POG CDR and the JMISC CDR must constitute the critical components of an informal Board of Directors who work in tandem with all the constituents including SWC for the betterment of the branch. SOCOM as the Proponent for PSYOP needs to exert itself through J39 and serve as the catalyst (and perhaps funder) to insure the evolution of the total community.

Third is political action. It all happens on “The Hill” and we in PSYOP must model our ability to “inform” members of Congress about PSYOP to help insure PSYOP receives its appropriate share of the pie.

Fourth is image building. All of us – those in uniform and out must work together to help build a positive image of PSYOP to once and for all remove the stigma of ‘propaganda’ and to clearly articulate the value of what we do everywhere from the battlefield to the Congress to wording of contracts.

My personal congratulations to COL Curt Boyd on the completion of his outstanding tenure as CDR of the 4th POG and my best wishes to the incoming CDR, COL Carl Phillips on his assumption of Command next month.


Anonymous said...

All of your points are good. Most psyopers can't wait to get back under USASOC, so long as they fix the budgeting issues that lead to the split in the first place. USARC doesn't know how to deal with tactical SOF units, and USASOC is bad with reserve units.

The other issue that no one is addressing is the psyop school. It has become something like a mini Ranger school with a little psyop thrown in. Commanders were preoccupied with the survivability of psyopers when things were bad in Iraq, which is good, but the psyop part suffered. We have soldiers coming out of school that barely know the basics of psyop, and sometimes know less than that. They can shoot really well and score a 300 on the PT test though.

So they need to make psyop school longer to incorporate the new emphasis on infantry skills, so they don't lessen the psyop.

I think they also need to ensure that reserve soldiers adhere to the basic training of the active comp. Language school is something that reservists need just as badly, and everyone should jump.


Lawrence Dietz said...

There has always been a resurgence of the need for tactical training during times of war. Concur that every soldier must have a basic level tactical skills. Scoring 300 on the PT test is not as important as the physical agility and stamina needed in combat. Weapons skills training needs time and high priority because its not something you can do on line.

PSYOP soldiers are no different from other soldiers and all soldiers regardless of component need to be held to the same standard. This training and standard should not be part of MOS training.

PSYOP training with tactical skills integrated is the right approach in my view.


Anonymous said...

A large problem with the betterment of PSYOP is deploying troops into combat without an understanding of there mission or organizational hierachy. The idea of "We need to deploy these brand new PSYOP Officers and NCOs to support the GWOT efforts and let them pay their dues before they work more strategic/MISTlike assignments" is tarnishing our image with supported unit commanders; especially SOF Units.

Due to the small nature of PSYOP elements, the composition of troops deploying on PSYOP missions should be more heavily scrutinized by senior officers and CSMs before sending them out the door. Typically when a PSYOP element arrives in country they are further segmented by the supported commands (as they should be) to meet the needs in a high demand mission.

On two rotations in the same theater, I have seen a unit composed of approx 25 troops deploy ISO GWOT with only 5 or less Soldiers with prior PSYOP experience; two of which were E4's. Only one had prior experience in the country. Needless to say when they were they were ineffective once they were splintered into 8 different elements.

Often times the above mentioned problems destroy the capability for PSYOPers to become the proverbial "Force Multiplier", because the more seasoned PSYOPers at POTFs commands away from the battlespace (who have paid their dues) are asking for things to put on slides such as: MOEI and dissemination matrices; while the units in the field are operating with invalid (or in many cases without) TAAWs, PSYOP Estimates, Area Assessments. New PSYOP leaders do not know where to start when it comes to build PSYOP plans or the PSYOP MDMP products that support the plans of tactical commanders; yet they are left to police themselves up.

The introduction of MIST operations through the country teams was an outstanding concept. It gives our guys the ability to do good things within the host nations and stay in compliance with the standing Status of Forces Agreements/ Visiting Forces Agreements. But it only further confuses the inexperienced, when a PSYOP Element is given a two prong mission that also addresses Tactical PSYOP with MIST operations. Tactical PSYOP gets ignored due to the ease and lack of planning needed to support MIST missions. This normally frustrates tactical commanders to see Soldiers that they work hard to support "shaking hands and kissing babies" without delivering tangible support to the mission of the battlespace owner. Supported unit commanders do not understand how to apply the doctrine and tactics required to use PSYOP. Even worse they don't get a vote in explaining how effective or ineffective the PSYOP element is or isn't without firing them.

POG needs to deploy seasoned LNOs to manage PSYOP elements for supported units (especially SOF). Supported units at some level should be intermediate raters for PSYOP LNOs to hold PSYOP LNOs more accountable for their action or lack of action in theater.

Lets make the units we support say we are great operators; rather than telling the units we support that we are great operators.

PSYOPer returning to the regiment

Lawrence Dietz said...

Thanks for the comments. There are some 'split personality' issues to deal with. PSYOP needs to be under one chain of command and there needs to be ONE set of standards for PSYOP personnel.

AC SOF has always emphasized the physical and pure combat skills. Frankly in today's world every soldier needs to be on the top of that game - but they must also be able to flawlessly execute the PSYOP mission which (after their own survival) is what they get paid for.