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Thread: Improving PSYOP (and CA as a tangent)

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    Default Improving PSYOP (and CA as a tangent)

    So the other thread really got some discussion going about those less sexy aspects of SOF, CA and PSYOP.

    Clearly there are some very valid criticisms of the two organizations, so here's a thread to discuss those criticisms and brainstorm solutions.

    Here's a thought I've had for a long time - doctrinally when a TPT goes out on a PSYOP mission, the 3-4 man team is effectively relegated to one or two men while the other two are left behind with the Humvee. Some discussion on that matter from people who have been down range a few times is that TPTs will often recruit a couple soldiers from their security element (say, the Infantry element they are supporting) to hold down that job, while the PSYOP trained soldiers are freed up to throw more PSYOP at the situation.

    Is this a regular practice? Does it work? Should it work? If it does work, and there are no downsides, should it become doctrine?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoun View Post
    Here's a thought I've had for a long time - doctrinally when a TPT goes out on a PSYOP mission, the 3-4 man team is effectively relegated to one or two men while the other two are left behind with the Humvee. Some discussion on that matter from people who have been down range a few times is that TPTs will often recruit a couple soldiers from their security element (say, the Infantry element they are supporting) to hold down that job, while the PSYOP trained soldiers are freed up to throw more PSYOP at the situation. Is this a regular practice? Does it work? Should it work? If it does work, and there are no downsides, should it become doctrine?
    I've been that mission commander that left PSYOPers pulling security; in hindsight, I was wrong to do that. Depending on the mission, I usually took their NCOIC with me.

    In post-mission AARs, they seemed unhappy about it, but didn't complain. I will take the blame for a poor use of assets; but sometimes, I needed (or thought I did) the extra security. I utilized PSYOPs in many ways that I shouldn't have. But most of the time, I believe I gave them the ability to do their job (which at the time, I wasn't sure what that was, exactly). I tried very hard to incorporate them into every mission, regardless of what it was. I required the NCOIC to keep me informed of his independent operations and always tried to get his input in post-mission AARs, targeting meetings, etc. I never intended to misuse them, but to be honest, like I mentioned, I didn't know what exactly what they were supposed to do. My fault.

    What REALLY annoyed me about the PSYOP team was the guidance they got from their company HQ (which was located a hundred miles from where we were). In many cases, the missions they were given by their own chain of command conflicted/didn't apply to our situation. That would be my biggest complaint with the employment of PSYOP teams; who do they work for? The unit they support/are attached to (in this case, my MiTT), or their company HQ? From what I understood, the answer was both. I think the reality was that their HQ was trying to "fill the gap" that existed because we didn't always employ them properly. In that same regard, the THT, EOD, JTAC, CA team and medics I had attached were all asked to things "out of their lane".

    All of them did this without complaint and were excellent assets. I was thankful to have all of them. I've had a good experience with every PSYOPer I've ever worked with...even when I didn't understand what their mission was. I normally found that most PSYOPers to be folks that took initiative, and tried very hard to keep me and the Chain of Commmand informed of what they were doing/trying to do/wanted to do.
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    Sir, you probably shouldnt beat yourself up too much about that, because we're told from day one that while we work for our higher HQ, located 100's of miles away, we need to do what we can to assist the supported unit commander as long as it doesn't interfere with our mission objectives. Like you pointed out, everyone has do things out of their lane. Its our responsiblity to make sure we aren't being misused, not yours, right? But now knowing what you know, what would you have done differently?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoun View Post
    Here's a thought I've had for a long time - doctrinally when a TPT goes out on a PSYOP mission, the 3-4 man team is effectively relegated to one or two men while the other two are left behind with the Humvee.
    What type of missions are they doing? Please don't tell me that they're handing out handbills or trinkets.

    The primary use of PSYOP that we've leveraged on my deployments was non-interference messages on a raid or cordon & search and to inform bystanders immediately after a raid of what just occurred and why - both largely achieved by one guy driving and perhaps one or two on foot handing out mission-specific handbills. Less frequently, they were used to collect "atmospherics" on general attitudes and perceptions in a given area, in order to gauge the cognitive impacts of our operations. It was always up to the PSYOP team leader whether anyone on his 3-man team stayed with the vehicle - but he had the option of not doing so because they always traveled with a larger unit for security (can't ride around in one vehicle and many units won't allow you any less than 3 vehicles). Most recently, they were our lead guys in working with IA to set up the IA's own "IO" cell.

    Like FSO, my biggest gripe was always with the TPD/TPC and/or their bosses. There were few pieces of information more worthless, in my opinion, than the weekly Measures of Performance rollup from the TPD's, yet it seemed to be their primary focus. They'd send us products that we never requested, purportedly to achieve effects inconsistent with our commander's intent, and then constantly badger us for current data on how many we handed out, while ignoring our requests for other products. You handed out x0,000 handbills in y location? Wonderful. You played x radio spots on y stations for a total of z minutes? Great. Do we have even the slightest hint as to Measures of Effectiveness (MoE)? Do we have any idea of how to measure the MoE? Then what is the point of the performance that we're measuring? Just to show that we're not sitting on our butts, doing nothing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoun View Post
    But now knowing what you know, what would you have done differently?
    Talk to the PSYOP CO leadership directly and help the Det NCOIC paint a picture of the AO, which was different from their CO HQ a hundred miles away. I never did this and I don't remember why. It's possible that my MiTT chief did, but as the team FSO/Ops guy, I normally was their direct contact for integration into the missions. PSYOP is an effect, an as the FSO, I was responsible for employing them, which I don't think I did well.

    I wish I would have given them more latitude to do what they wanted. The Det NCOIC had a lot of plans and good ideas that we never got to try out; lack of time, lack of opportunity, etc.

    Most of all, I wish I would have studied exactly what it is that PSYOP can provide, how it would have been beneficial to us; thus, employed them properly.
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    The absence of feedback loops, MoEs, etc, is endemic to social policy in general. Its a personal pet peeve of mine, glad to know its got real life impacts as well.

    As far as the handing out trinkets aspect though, when properly employed its about far more than handing out the trinkets.

    F2F ops need to have a vehicle to facilitate communication. Just imagine how awkward it would be to walk into say, a high school lunchroom, and try to accomplish some small simple change in behavior, like taking a different route home that evening. I personally might be able to walk into an Algerian coffee shop and not turn heads and make an ass of myself, but I promise you if I tried the same thing in say, Russia, I'd have a very hard time interacting successfully on my own (even though I've got zero Arab blood but my grandfather was born in Russia)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    What type of missions are they doing? Please don't tell me that they're handing out handbills or trinkets.
    They did some of that. Mostly when they were just tagging along on a patrol. I usually got the 'terps to take a look at the "product" before they took it out. We did some incident-specific product distrobution that I think was helpful. I remember they had these really stupid comic books that portrayed the ISF as super-heroes. I had the 'terps read them to me; it was so lame. I imagine the Iraqi kids that read them laughed.

    The primary use of PSYOP that we've leveraged on my deployments was non-interference messages on a raid or cordon & search and to inform bystanders immediately after a raid of what just occurred and why
    We did some of this, I think it helped with crowd control in a few occasions.

    Less frequently, they were used to collect "atmospherics" on general attitudes and perceptions in a given area, in order to gauge the cognitive impacts of our operations.
    This was their major effort. The Det. NCOIC wanted to get out and do this on every mission, which I encouraged. I think his findings were skewed, in some cases. I didn't find the atmospheric reports all that helpful.

    Most recently, they were our lead guys in working with IA to set up the IA's own "IO" cell.
    For some reason, we didn't think of this until about half-way through the deployment. For one, the IA BN wasn't up to it, nor did they grasp the concept at first. The IO guy they ended up nominating was a PL that was fired for stealing. The PSYOP NCOIC put in a good effort and did successfully employ some IO themes into IA ops. Should have started it from day one.

    Like FSO, my biggest gripe was always with the TPD/TPC and/or their bosses. There were few pieces of information more worthless, in my opinion, than the weekly Measures of Performance rollup from the TPD's, yet it seemed to be their primary focus.
    I remember specifically the PSYOP company's effort to erect a billboard in one of the larger cities in the AO. We vehemently disagreed with the whole thing from the get-go. It was a "wanted" poster for an HTV. I can't remember exactly why my MiTT chief opposed it, but this went on for months. The billboard was eventually erected, and the locals destroyed it the next day.

    They'd send us products that we never requested, purportedly to achieve effects inconsistent with our commander's intent, and then constantly badger us for current data on how many we handed out, while ignoring our requests for other products. You handed out x0,000 handbills in y location? Wonderful. You played x radio spots on y stations for a total of z minutes?
    Ditto on all. Most that didn't apply we ignored.
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    First of all I'd like to say even though I don't post that much in this forum I'm a regular lurker, and the person who referred Voodoun to this board. After reading this thread I couldn't help myself but post on this topic.

    First and foremost, it's been a current trend for commanders to use PsyOp as command information, i.e. handing out mission related messages and material to notify the populace of what the unit we're supporting is doing. This is a valid function of PsyOp, and a great way to utilize us as an asset. Mind you though, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our mission and possible capabilities. Not to mention it's probably the TPD's least favorite task.

    As far as "atmospherics" the TPD send those to higher and that's what is used as a basis for products and missions that the TPD will receive. In essence that's one reason the Psyop team should establish good report with the unit they're supporting, the information they receive the more complete the information they send up will be. Every pair of boots on the ground is an intelligence collector.

    I noticed the complaint on products requested and products received. I can tell you that the TPD does not choose the products, nor does even there Company... they can request, but doesn't mean that they will receive. More goes on in products than just the locality. If you want something that, for example, targets Sunnis or Kurds, and somehow that product can be misconstrued and used as propaganda by the Shiite, it won't be used because the chances of bleedover is high. Likewise you can't produce products that in anyway can be perceived to support or target any particular tribe, or group.

    Comics, PsyOp has never had a good history with comics.. to note a previous such mistake would be the infamous Superman comic from Serbia/ Kosovo.

    I have a few other things I would like to comment/ respond on, but I'll take a break for right now.
    Last edited by kville79; 01-21-2009 at 11:40 PM.

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    Hey Sarge - look what you started.

    That's interesting that you bring up the superman land mine comic, because at the schoolhouse we're taught that that was a great success, and heavily pre and post tested, resulting in something like an 80% reduction in land mine injuries to children - can you expound on your perception?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoun View Post
    Hey Sarge - look what you started.

    That's interesting that you bring up the superman land mine comic, because at the schoolhouse we're taught that that was a great success, and heavily pre and post tested, resulting in something like an 80% reduction in land mine injuries to children - can you expound on your perception?
    They obviously didn't tell you that in the end it was recalled due to the incident that little Serbian/Kosovar kids ended up in minefields thinking that superman was real and going to save them.

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    Default Sheesh. That's why I tell everyone to question everything...

    "That's interesting that you bring up the superman land mine comic, because at the schoolhouse we're taught that that was a great success, and heavily pre and post tested, resulting in something like an 80% reduction in land mine injuries to children - can you expound on your perception?"
    They obviously didn't tell you that in the end it was recalled due to the incident that little Serbian/Kosovar kids ended up in minefields thinking that superman was real and going to save them.
    Wasn't there, don't know but that's totally believable...

    This is also why I continually annoy people by saying our training is REALLY bad...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    This is also why I continually annoy people by saying our training is REALLY bad...
    Ken, why do I keep getting deja vu about the training thing?
    Example is better than precept.

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    Were they recalled? I can believe their their efficacy is debateable, what isnt, but from what I understand numerous subsequent comic book series have been used all over. I wish there was some way to access the hard pre and post test data on that.

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    Default Nah, you got it backwards, it's vuja de

    Quote Originally Posted by RTK View Post
    Ken, why do I keep getting deja vu about the training thing?
    I've never said anything about that before...

    (I am not going to admit I'm in a rut!!! )

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    Default If you're looking for data....

    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoun View Post
    Were they recalled? I can believe their their efficacy is debateable, what isnt, but from what I understand numerous subsequent comic book series have been used all over. I wish there was some way to access the hard pre and post test data on that.
    It's doubtful you'll find any. It was recalled due to perception management. Kids rolled into a minefield looking for Superman. It didn't make good headlines. The command recalled the books. End of story. There wasn't a study. It was a command decision.
    Example is better than precept.

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    If they were recalled for that reason, why were they used in other mine awareness campaigns 5 years later in Latin America, that's the question I'm trying to get at. All PSYOP material is supposed to have MoE's attached to them, as I mentioned its a pet peeve of mine that we can't figure out what works and what doesnt based on hard data.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kville79 View Post
    ...

    First and foremost, it's been a current trend for commanders to use PsyOp as command information, i.e. handing out mission related messages and material to notify the populace of what the unit we're supporting is doing. This is a valid function of PsyOp, and a great way to utilize us as an asset. Mind you though, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our mission and possible capabilities. Not to mention it's probably the TPD's least favorite task.

    ...
    I can speak from experience that this is because this is the only way that tactical commanders can influence what is put out. Anything that ISN"T command information is approved at levels way above reality. I'm not sure if this restriction came from the PSYOP chain of command or the regular chain of command, but it is out there. Wherever it came from, it was endorsed by the regular chain of command.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoun View Post
    If they were recalled for that reason, why were they used in other mine awareness campaigns 5 years later in Latin America, that's the question I'm trying to get at. All PSYOP material is supposed to have MoE's attached to them, as I mentioned its a pet peeve of mine that we can't figure out what works and what doesnt based on hard data.
    Different command and different command decision. Think of who was in charge and making decisions in Bosnia in 1996 (NATO). The 1996 version was 10 pages long. They were given out in orphanages, hospitals, and refugee camps - children with very little in life who were looking for hope and heroes.

    Now think of who was in charge in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras (SOCOM) in 1998. The 1998 version in Spanish was 32 pages long with more explanation and was given out by UNICEF, the government, the Ministry of Education, and SF Soldiers. It was a little smarter program.

    Look into the PSYOPS archives for AARs of both operations. Go on CALL's JRTC cell and see if you can ask an RFI (the website walks you through it) and they should be able to help.
    Last edited by RTK; 01-22-2009 at 12:24 PM.
    Example is better than precept.

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    Thanks, thats sort of direction I needed to get it to click - thanks!

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    Default One question

    What is the turn around time for idea to implementation? We all know we are losing the information war here, so how do we streamline the process? Sorry two questions.
    ODB

    Exchange with an Iraqi soldier during FID:

    Why did you not clear your corner?

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