IWS - The Information Warfare Site
News Watch Make a  donation to IWS - The Information Warfare Site Use it for navigation in case java scripts are disabled

A HMMWV (hum-vee)  from Company C., 9th Psychological Operations Battalion

PSYOPS soldiers aim to win hearts, minds    

Story and photos by Spc. Jacob Boyer

CAMP DOHA, KUWAIT (Feb. 03, 2003) - A psychological advantage on the battlefield can go a long way toward convincing an enemy to surrender before the fight even begins, preventing needless casualties on both sides.

     However, merely telling the opposition to lay down its weapons is not enough. Various forms of persuasion are needed.

     Persuading an opponent to either surrender or defect, is the what the soldiers of Company C, 9th Psychological Operations Battalion do best, said Maj. Bill Bryant, company commander.

     "I think our role in an operation is very important," said Bryant, a Weymouth, Mass., native. "By convincing the enemy to surrender without a fight, we can save the lives of soldiers on both sides."

     The company, normally based out of Fort Bragg, N.C., is currently attached to the 3rd Infantry Division (Mech.), while it is deployed to Kuwait to deter Iraqi aggression in the region. The 60 soldiers of Company C compile and distribute products targeted at both opposing troops and the Iraqi civilians, Bryant said.

     "Our job is all about influencing behavior," said Colorado native Staff Sgt. Sean Noonan, the unit's plans and programs team chief. "With military units, we want them to surrender. With civilians, we want them to stay out of the way."

     There are several ways psychological operations specialists go about getting the message to their intended audiences, Bryant said. Information leaflet drops, audio messages and face-to-face communications are all used in an attempt to save as many lives as possible in the event of war.

     Face-to-face contact is the most dangerous, but it's also the most effective in a permissive environment," he said. "An interpreter can say things to a person in his language and have a more personal impact."

     Before Psyops products are developed, the message has to be tailored to reach the target audience, said Spc. Mark Joseph, intelligence analyst.

     "A lot of intelligence analysts are looking for the size and strength of units," said Joseph, a Barnegat, N.J., native. "I need to know more about the human side: beliefs, religion and morale. If the message is going to work, we have to know the people."

     The product development team uses what intelligence analysts find to create products to deliver to a target audience, said Sgt. Lizabeth Lee, psychological operations specialist.

     "We get a request that details what psychological message is needed for this product," said Lee, a Lakeville, New Brunswick, Canada, native. "With that, we put together leaflets, handbills, flyers, posters and a number of other products to deliver to the enemy and civilians."

     Most printed products are delivered through drops from aircraft, Bryant said. Two different leaflet-bombs can be dropped from fixed-wing aircraft, and boxes can de dropped from a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.

     Detachments from the company also have been attached to each brigade in the division, Bryant said. In battle, three-person tactical psychological operations teams go with each battalion to broadcast messages over loudspeakers that can be heard as far as 1,800 meters away.

     The teams can broadcast recorded messages from the battalion commander, said Staff Sgt. Aaron Leath, team leader. They can also hook the loudspeakers to a radio and broadcast live messages from the commander.

     "We augment whatever unit we're supporting at the time," said Leath, a Glen Burnie, Md., native. "We go out ahead and try to eliminate the need for an operation. It's a good feeling."

     The company does its job without getting immediate feedback on how effective it was, Noonan said.

     "The problem with PSYOP is it's very difficult to accurately measure its effects," he said. "You won't find out if things worked until a long time later. It's hard to measure, but I personally believe it has an impact."

     Even without evidence of a job well done, Joseph and others recognize the importance of their tasks.

     "The more effective we are here, the less fighting they have to do out there," he said.

Source Third United States Army Kuwait