Fort Bragg Soldiers work at winning hearts and minds around the world
June 11, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Most Soldiers use weapons and bullets when they go to the fight. The 4th Psychological Operations Group Soldiers also use words, images and sounds to win the "hearts and minds of the local people," according to Cpl. Adam Van Treuren, 3rd PSYOP Battalion, 4th POG. He and other members of the 4th POG recently showed off their unique talents and skills to the Fort Bragg community at their annual Regimental Week open house/technology demonstration June 1 at their headquarters.
The open house was the beginning of week-long events celebrating the PSYOPS mission.
The Regimental Week was a tremendous success, said Col. Curtis Boyd, 4th POG commander. "To be able to execute an event of that magnitude and complexity with little to no error reflects an incredible organization composed of equally incredible or greater people," he said.
"Any one event would be an ordeal for an ordinary unit. (The week featured) mornings composed of four athletic tournaments, a 10K run, combatives, weightlifting, endurance event, speed chess and language Olympics and afternoons full of information and high tech demonstrations, graduate-level lectures and roundtable discussions on issues of geo-political significance, as well as luncheons and evening socials for special guests and awardees," Boyd said.
Others in the group also felt the open house would be a success.
"It brings not only the 4th POG but the other PSYOP Soldiers ... and other Soldiers in the community together. It should be a good event," said Command Sgt. Maj. Fernan Castelo, 4th POG command sergeant major.
"Like all military missions, Regimental Week was no exception," said Boyd. Planning began on the final day of last year's Regimental Week. The most intense planning and organization began in March. Despite the commander being deployed, time and distance were a factor but not an obstacle, said Boyd. "This is a little known and hardly understood regiment, but in true PSYOP form it can, and does always, do a lot with a little," he said.
Many vendors displayed the latest technology in satellites, communication and monitors outside the headquarters while the six battalions had presentations ready, along with other vendors inside the building. Other activities included sports events, strategic studies sections and banquets throughout the week.
The 1st PSYOP Bn.'s area of operation is the Southern Command or South America. Staff Sgt. Reynaldo Cruz has been deployed to Peru where he and other team members analyze information and give advice to local governments. "Whatever they request," he said. Cruz said they get training on the culture and issues of the particular country they will be in.
PSYOPS Soldiers need video, print and audio to complete their missions. The 3rd PSYOP Bn. provides the majority of media, whether it's broadcasting, posters, pamphlets or audio messages. The battalion can deploy with a non-linear editing system or a laptop system for more remote areas. One example of a product is pro Afghan national army public service announcements, said Van Treuren. Technicians are also needed to keep the machines running. "I had a two-week basic course to teach me how to fix this machine," said Spc. Christian Presley, 3rd PSYOP Bn.
What the 3rd PSYOP Bn. can't produce, the other battalions think outside the box. Hats and mouse pads also help spread the target message, according to Capt. Adria Horn, 5th Psyop Bn. Her area of operation is Pacific Command, from India to Korea. Her country is the Philippines. "These are used to fill a need or a void. (For example) mouse pads in Internet cafAfA repeat the message 'IED kills.' Repetition we know has a positive influence."
The battalion also produces and uses comic books aimed at certain age groups. If they can, they outsource the work.
A PSYOPS team can also use the love of sports and music to spread their target message.
Spc. Esther Cutler, 6th Psyops Bn. worked in Ethiopia, part of African Command. "There's tension in those tribes," she said. The battalion designed a tri-arm logo for unity and promoted a basketball team to spread the word. "During their games, they stop and talk to the audience about unity. They (travel) around the regions of Ethiopia so they're going to take that message with them," she said. The battalion is also sponsoring a soccer league with the same unity message. They also put together a unity concert with world musicians Pras Michael, Aster Awoke and Gosaye. "It was huge," said Cutler.
Pakistan, part of the Central Command region, works with members of the 8th PSYOPS Bn. Nigar Nazar, the first Pakistani female cartoonist, wrote story books with messages about suicide bombing, female education and extreme Islam for the battalion who in turn place them in backpacks for school children. "Early on, they're reading about that stuff and knowing that suicide bombing is bad, female education is good," said Sgt. Laura Blakeslee, 8th PSYOPS Bn. "Not many females are being educated because their schools are being destroyed."
The battalion also helps the radio station Meshal at Peshawar University spread a message of hope, said Blakeslee. The students write the copy and bring it to the battalion where they edit it and approve it for broadcast. "We're trying to unite the country ... this is having them work together and spread the word that they'll really believe in."
The 9th PSYOPS Bn. currently assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment, has the job of being a liaison between ground forces commanders and the general public of any country they deploy to, said Sgt. Patrick Vegan, 9th PSYOPS Bn. "We advise the commander on certain ethical, cultural things that they need to be aware of in order to properly do their missions. (The 75th Ranger Regiment) is a strictly kinetic force, so they're going for high value targets and specific people," said Vegan. "We assist them by making sure that the general populations in that building or surrounding buildings are awake and know what is going on."
Vegan explained that by letting everyone know what is happening by 'filling the information void' before the action will dispel the rumors that enemy propagandists spread and try to turn the population against U.S. Soldiers.
"We have interpreters that go in and talk to the neighboring people, the people across the street and people in the house. We also influence them by using loudspeaker systems. We also hand out posters out to the population. We put a face on the mission," said Vegan.
"Lately, we have (Iraqi army and police) give out products and they're actually doing the talking. We put the Iraqi face on the mission so they're starting to see their country is taking control so they believe their country is doing the right thing, it's not just us pushing it," he said.
The week closed with a regimental formal from privates to generals in attendance to celebrate the inaugural presentation of the Maj. Gen. Robert A. McClure Medal to four, highly distinguished members of the regiment; retired officers Col. Alfred Paddock, Col. Jeffrey Jones, Col. Frank King and Lt. Col. Joseph Messiner, said Boyd.
Whether it's talking to people, handing out hats, comic books, or setting up sports games and concerts, the members of the 4th POG, the only active Army psychological operations unit, put out positive messages to win their target country over.