News: 399th PSYOP trains Iraqi counterparts
Story by Sgt. Chad Nelson
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DIAMONDBACK, Iraq – U.S. Army soldiers from the 399th PSYOP(-) and 24 Iraqi soldiers, police and federal police gathered for a six-day class at Forward Operating Base Diamondback, Sept. 18-23. The class focused on developing the Iraqis’ skills in information dissemination operations.
“We’re teaching them to do what we do so they can fight against the bad guys’ propaganda by putting out their own information to the public,” said Spc. John Bolten, assistant team leader with Team 1775, 399th PSYOP(-) and St. Joseph, Mo., native.
The class covered a variety of topics: developing ideas for information dissemination operations using loudspeakers, DVDs, television or leaflets; pretesting the products’ effectiveness through focus groups and interviews; creating and distributing the product; and post testing the product to determine its effect on the target audience.
The training was punctuated with video and audio clips that demonstrated effective uses of IDO. Practical exercises, such as creating mock leaflets and recording loudspeaker messages, allowed the Iraqis to practice what they had learned during the class.
“A lot of them are very knowledgeable on the subject,” said Spc. James Spears, team 1771, 399th PSYOP(-) and Raymore, Mo., native. Most of the Iraqis have had some real-world experience with the classroom material. As part of their job, they have created flyers or leaflets and distributed them throughout their communities.
The reasons for distributing these messages are as varied as the messages themselves.
Some of the students hope to convince people to cease terrorist activities and rejoin society as peaceful citizens.
“We want to bring people back to society, back to a normal way of life,” said 1st Lt. Ali Hamdan Kadhim, a media cell officer, supporting Knight Assault, Brigade Headquarters, Ninewa Operation Cell. “Some people are sleeping, and through my media I have to open their eyes and show them how to live in peace.”
Others hope to rally more people to support their organization.
“We have a lot of sources cooperating with us because of the products that we’ve distributed,” said Maj. Hussein Hassan Salih, 6th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Division Headquarters, Iraqi Army. He went on to say that this cooperation has helped the 6th Bde. find many weapons caches and wanted terrorists.
Even though Salih has found success with his current techniques, he found this class important because it shows him how to more effectively create and distribute his products.
“We learned how to improve our products, how to question people and how to distribute all these products to the people,” he said.
Additionally, the training offered ideas about using different media outlets. Most of these Iraqis have distributed leaflets, but have not capitalized on other vital media outlets in their information dissemination operations.
“We’ve learned how to get in touch and communicate with the target audience with things like loudspeakers … face-to-face conversations and television commercials,” said Kadhim.
Ultimately, though, this class offered Iraqis another tool in the fight against violent extremists and terrorist activities in their country. If, for example, a terrorist attacks and destroys power lines, the Iraqis will be better able to create products to distribute to the affected neighborhood. These products will inform the town citizens who was responsible for the act and what to do to help catch the perpetrators.
The U.S. soldiers leading the class said they were satisfied at the end of the training session.
“They were very enthusiastic in classroom discussion,” said Sgt. Richard Jez, 1775 Team leader, 399th PSYOP(-). “Now they know how to show the populace who the bad guy is, and what [the bad guy] really wants. They know how to react to different situations with IDO, and which type of products to use and when to use them.”
The soldiers hope that beyond learning the technical aspects of IDO, the Iraqis have the desire to conduct the mission.
“I hope that when they leave here, they’ll be eager to start utilizing IDO; that they’ll really want to do it, no matter what it takes,” said Spears.
It seems, this is exactly the case. Facing some difficulties with funding, some of these Iraqis have offered to buy laptops and cameras with their own money. While they do have the basic gear necessary to create products, they are eager to upgrade so they can create better products.
“They will take what they’ve learned here and go on to build a better future for the city of Mosul,” said Maj. Paul Schaefer, company commander of the 399th PSYOP(-).