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Photo, caption below.
A systems operator and flight crewman mans his station on board a U.S. Air Force EC-130E aircraft during a "Commando Solo" broadcast mission. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Aaron Ansarov
Commando Solo II: Weapon of Mass Persuasion
By Gunnery Sgt. Charles Portman / U.S. Central Command
Photo, caption below.
A member of the U.S. Army's 4th Psychological Operations Group edits an audio product received through the Deployable Audio Production System. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Aaron Ansarov
CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, QATAR, March 19, 2003 — U.S. Special Operations personnel armed with broadcasting equipment and “the truth” are preparing the Iraqi people and military for a possible U.S.-led strike against Saddam Hussein.

“We call ourselves ‘weapons of mass persuasion,’ ” said Air Force Lt. Col. “Mike,” a Commando Solo II detachment commander.

U.S. Central Command officials said the Commando Solo II effort may have played a role with the surrender of 17 Iraqi soldiers earlier today near the border of Kuwait.

Jim Wilkinson, Central Command’s director of strategic communications, said the message appears to be getting through. “Clearly Iraq’s forces are listening to the Coalition’s message that it is better to live to see Iraq’s future than to die fighting for Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime.”

Special operators fly Commando Solo II sorties onboard EC-130E aircraft. Six EC-130s that function as ‘flying broadcast stations’ are available for the mission, in which pre-programmed AM, FM and HF radio messages are pumped in to Iraq.

Lt. Col. Mike and his associates are reservists that belong to the Air Force’s 193rd Special Operations Wing, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The effort is a coordinated campaign between Air Force and Army Special Operations members. It’s designed to inform the Iraqi people and military that the upcoming war -- if it occurs -- is not directed against them personally.

“It’s against Saddam Hussein and the way he rules,” Mike said. “We’d like the Iraqi military to throw down their arms and not engage our military,” if there is a war.

One goal of the mission is to figure out how Iraqis think and to persuade them that Hussein, ‘who really doesn’t care for them,’ isn’t worth the fight, Mike said.

One radio script describes how Hussein’s son, Uday, paid $1.4 million to Lebanese singer Nawal Al-Zughby to entertain the Baghdad elite. “The regime truly has no regard for the welfare of the Iraqi people,” the script reads. “Saddam’s son has made this evident by his callous choices when spending Iraq’s money.”

Soldiers assigned to the Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group, based at Ft. Bragg, N.C., research the various Iraqi cultures and produce segments for the broadcasts.

Army Staff Sgt. “Nobel”, a 38 year-old reservist from Cleveland, Ohio, works in the production distribution center. His team receives radio programs from Ft. Bragg at an undisclosed location inside Central Command’s area of responsibility.

Programs normally last about one hour, Nobel said. Each program has an introduction, combinations of regional and Western music and an information message designed for the target audience.

“We try to keep the music and entertainment portion different with each program,” Noble said.

Research back at Ft. Bragg has shown songs by musicians such as Celine Deon, Sheryl Crow and Santana is liked by Iraqis in the target area, so it gets air time. “We don’t want to offend their culture in any way,” Noble said.

Leaflet drops are separate from Commando Solo missions, and are also used to disseminate Commando Solo-type messages. Leaflet drops also are used to inform target audiences of the “information radio” service and the broadcast frequencies.

To date, more than 17 million leaflets have been dropped this year.

A member of 193rd Special Operations Wing prepares his EC-130E aircraft for take off. The EC-130E's primary mission is psychological operations as well as command, control and communications. Special operators from the 4th Psychological Operations Group and the U.S. Air Force's 193rd Special Operations Wing broadcast television and radio programming that allows the U.S. to communicate directly to the Iraqi people. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Aaron Ansarov

Commando Solo pilot Lt. Col. “Craig” said in addition to supporting the objectives of the coalition, many lives can be saved as a result of Commando Solo broadcasts. “To the Iraqi populace (we say) stay out of the way if (a war occurs); to the military units (we say) walk away from your weapons, throw up the white flag, surrender,” Craig said.

In the first Gulf War officials believed the leaflet and Commando Solo combination worked well. Iraqi soldiers surrendered with leaflets in their hands, arms extended above their heads. Craig said those soldiers knew what to do because they read the leaflets and listened to the radio broadcasts.

“We think we saved tens of thousands of lives during the Gulf War,” he said.