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.


Anonymous said...

Sorry my comment is coming after the fact, but I think another thing that young psyopers need to understand is that competency in their craft is something that happens over time. They shouldn't just wing it, but should follow the process outlined in their training until it becomes an automatic reflex for them.
I like to think of it like room clearing training for infantry guys. They practice over and over again, and they do it slow and smooth, until it becomes automatic. The biggest mistake that I've made, and I see others make, is people trying to just wing it out there. They have a translator, which gives them time in a conversation that they don't usually have; they should use that time to think.

It's true that some people just don't belong, and they shouldn't force it. Some people just don't have strong social skills, or aren't charismatic, etc... but, most of the job isn't intuitive. Even if you're not a natural at building rapport, you can practice and get better. Some people aren't built for infantry either, but there are minimum standards that they must meet. People need to remember that there is a process to follow, and that they shouldn't be out there doing their own thing.
The other thing new soldiers need to know is that we aren't the "hearts and minds" guys, unless it serves the desired behavior. Too many people forget that we're in the behavior business, not the belief business. This ain't civil affairs. This isn't going out and randomly talking to people without a predetermined agenda. New graduates need to be told this at the end, just in case they missed the point, which many do.


Lawrence Dietz said...

I could not agree with you more!