CAMP DAWSON, W.Va. -- In the green hills of West Virginia, at the bottom of an hour's worth of winding roads and switchbacks, along the banks of the Cheat River is a postage stamp of a National Guard training facility that offers units facilities and time to create a truly customized training experience.It's not that Fort Bragg, North Carolina, doesn't have the same amenities -- it does in spades -- but Camp Dawson offers seclusion, concentration, and the opportunity to put remote and reach back capabilities to the test.For that reason, during the first two weeks of June, 6th Military Information Support Battalion, 4th Military Information Support Group, chose this location to conduct their mission readiness exercise and validate their deploying teams.A conventional MRX allows leadership two levels up to ensure that units are prepared to execute their downrange mission. These are often done at one of several national or joint training centers like the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana. The purpose of this training is the same, only the opponent the teams face isn't an "insurgent" firing blank rounds from weapons equipped with the military's version of Laser Tag, but an ambassador with a tight timeline, notepad and pen, or host country vendors plying their wares and hoping for a lucrative contract.This unconventional human terrain is part and parcel of psychological operations. The practitioners are serving in either of two different sorts of teams. Military information support teams work at the embassy level with Department of State counterparts while regional military information support teams, or RMTs, conduct military-to-military engagements with host and partnered nation forces.While at Camp Dawson, everything the teams say and do is under scrutiny. Even the social event is an evaluated exercise. Furniture is prearranged in interview rooms to create a response and evaluators make no qualms about critiquing actions as innocent as moving a chair or placing a water bottle on a table. Teams in hallways before an event discuss the importance of body language, noncommittal conversation, and tips for code-switching between military and state manners of speaking while avoiding jargon.Maj. Clifford Howard, operations officer for 6th MISB, explained that a single day of the MRX is meant to simulate a week of reality. During the course of the MRX, the MISTs will meet with vendors, public affairs officers, deputy chiefs of mission for embassies, and at the end of the exercise will sit down with an actual ambassador. The RMTs bounce from meeting with special operations joint operations officers, senior partnered military leaders, teaching classes to partnered personnel, and briefing commanders of Theatre Special Operations Commands."We expose them to as many landmines as possible," Howard said, discussing the challenges the teams face during the exercise. "We call our teams, 'regional and cultural experts,' or 'master practitioners of military information support operations,' but these opportunities here allow us to actually test that."However, it isn't all meetings and after action reviews. Nick Novosel, a cultural intelligence cell analyst for 6th MISB, helped devise written and oral examinations that are taken individually and as a team. The teams face boards chaired by their senior leaders and must defend their competency, not unlike a promotion board."We are doing much better now, not to say teams of the past weren't prepared, it is just much more systematized now," Novosel says about the current validation process. "We are more flexible in meeting the needs of the team."Halfway through the exercise, teams take a break from preparing briefings, creating leaflets or other products, and studying the mountains of regulatory guidance and cultural information they must absorb to test their mettle on a leader reaction course. Howard kept the LRC as a way to assess the team dynamic while creating an additional bonding experience. What is often used as a tool to create artificial operational stress in the conventional force is used here as a way to relieve it.It works, too. Teams start the day almost wary, already feeling the stress of being constantly critiqued. As the sun burns off the morning clouds and swarms of cicada stream out of the trees by the river, the Soldiers' spirits visibly raise. Smiles crease sweat-lined faces as teams laugh at their failures and cheer at their victories. Most of these teams have been together for quite a while but a few have had recent personnel changes and this back-breaking respite serves to gel the last bits together. One of the RMT members shares his thoughts about the job for which he signed up."I thought it would be Jedi mind tricks but it's a lot of research, analysis and work that I wasn't aware of," one teammate says. "When you're on the outside looking in, you don't understand what it takes to influence an audience, to do what's best for our national interests."As the culminating exercise of the event, teams presented briefs to Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, commanding general, U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He praised the teams on their dedication while urging them to go forward and continue their work, which is so crucial to the special operations mission and continued partnership with foreign nations.