By Benjamin Abel/ USAJFKSWCSNovember 20, 2009
CAMP MACKALL, N.C. - The smell of incense, the aroma of tea and the sound of Arabic music all add an element of cultural realism to special operations training qualification. The chickens and goats wandering freely further create the image of a small, remote village. Further complicating the scene, the trainees encounter role players speaking Arabic demanding conversation in their native language requiring certain proficiency or a translator to speak with the foreign villager.
These future psychological operations Soldiers are engaging pseudo tribal leaders to address realistic dilemmas common to today's operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
On this day, the PSYOP students had a special visitor who witnessed how cooperative and collaborative efforts between the Departments of State and Defense combine in many developing nations.
Under Secretary Judith A. McHale, who heads the State Department's Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs efforts, got a glimpse at the realistic training provided to PSYOP Soldiers.
During her visit, McHale emphasized interpersonal communication and effective cultural engagements. She said her first-hand view of the Army's situational training has exposed her to new areas of potential partnership and greater collaboration between the two agencies.
Currently, there are more than two dozen PSYOP teams, known as military information support teams, working alongside State Department public information specialists in American Embassies around the world. Each team reinforces the whole government diplomatic approach to global communication while expressing the defense and security interests consistent with the host nation and the United States' goals and objectives.
From recruiting, equipping and training a foreign force and providing that element a real-world mission in some of the region's most inhospitable places, this small team's impact was far in excess of what could be imagined, said Col. Curtis Boyd, chief of staff for the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and former 4th PSYOP Group commander.
After the briefing, McHale said it is programs like these in which the State and Defense Departments' interactions are essential to creating cooperative relationships and enduring capabilities among our partner nations.