PSYOPS soldiers aim to win hearts,
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
Before Psyops products are developed, the message has to be tailored
to reach the target audience, said Spc. Mark Joseph, intelligence
"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
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
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