Army reservist fights information war in Afghanistan
October 20, 2010
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Staff Sgt. Evan L. Batie, a reservist with the 319th Psychological Operations Co., 13th Psychological Operations Battalion, is on the forefront of the information war in Afghanistan.
In the civilian world, Batie is a student at the Metropolitan State University Saint Paul, Minn., campus studying business management in human resources. Since his deployment to Forward Operating Base Lightning, Paktya Province, began in June, Batie has been working as a psychological operations planner.
He described psychological operations as "the art or practice of influencing an audience by means of face to face communication, print news and other media."
"What is the best way to get [the Afghan people] to see our side of the story'" said Batie, who attends battle training assembly at Arden Hills, Minn. "If they're attacking, how do we get them to stop attacking' If they're rioting, how do we get them [to stop rioting]' In short, [it's about] behavior modification."
In Batie's previous two deployments to Kuwait and Iraq in 2003 and Iraq in 2004, he served on 'psyop' teams. On this deployment, one of Batie's biggest responsibilities is working with an Afghan disc jockey, overseeing a tactical radio broadcast, or low-power radio transmitter. The job may seem superfluous to outsiders, but Batie said the TRB is a critical medium between coalition forces and the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan people.
"It's so huge, I don't want to say to control the information, but to be on the forefront of the information," Batie said. "A lot of people are motivated by fear, so if I can put out the truth that will empower the people."
The TRB empowers the people by broadcasting public service announcements from the Afghan government and countering Taliban propaganda, Batie said. However, it also broadcasts lighter material, including two hours a day of music requests. This, too, has its place, he added.
"Heck, it makes me feel uplifted," Batie said of the TRB music, "so I know it's got to be doing the same thing for them."
Usually Batie's job involves only moving along messages from higher command and supervising the Afghan DJ at the TRB. However, on Sept. 24, circumstances forced him into a more active role.
Shortly after noon, nearby FOB Goode came under attack by a squad-sized element of insurgents. The fighting, which eventually left five insurgents and one Afghan security contractor dead, quickly spread to FOB Lightning.
Upon learning the base had come under attack, Batie ran to the wall and stood on guard with his weapon pointed outward. After scanning his sector for 45 minutes, Sgt. 1st Class John W. Nagy, a TRB manager with Combined Joint Task Force 101, advised Batie to write a brief statement warning civilians in the area to remain indoors until attacks and counter operations were over.
Batie wrote the statement and had it vetted through Lt. Col. Raymond J. Short, senior advisor for the 203rd Thunder Corps Religious and Cultural Advisor, and Sgt. Maj. Jainarine Singh, an information operations noncommissioned officer, both of whom are reservists.
Within an hour, FOB Lightning radio broadcasted a warning to the Afghans in the area to stay indoors and, if possible, to avoid the area altogether.
"Anytime something like that goes down, you want to minimize civilian interference," Batie said about the Sept. 24 attack.
In addition to his work with the radio, Batie advises Afghan National Army soldiers who are part of the 203rd Thunder Corps Religious and Cultural Advisory at FOB Thunder, a base adjacent to FOB Lighting. The Afghan Ministry of Defense has not yet set up an Afghan psychological operations counterpart, but Batie does what he can to share the skills he knows such as crafting radio addresses.
"There's no better immersion than having to work with these guys day in and day out," Batie said of his Afghan counterparts.
Batie's efforts have not gone unnoticed by superiors.
"[Batie is] a well-respected noncommissioned officer who knows his job and performs it extremely well," Short said. "He's an extremely nice guy and a pleasure to work with."