Activated on 27 November 1990, the United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC) is responsible for overseeing two lesser known areas of Special Operations whose contributions are no less valuable than Special Forces or Rangers. Used during peacetime, contingencies and declared war, these activities are not a form of force, but are force multipliers that use nonviolent means in often violent environments. Persuading rather than compelling physically, they rely on logic, fear, desire or other mental factors to promote specific emotions, attitudes or behaviors. The ultimate objective of U.S. military psychological operations and civil affairs is to convince enemy, neutral, and friendly nations and forces to take action favorable to the United States and its allies.
The mission of the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) is to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice, and plan, develop, and conduct Civil Affairs and Psychological operations in support of Unified Commanders, coalition forces, or other government agencies as directed by the National Command Authority.
The Civil Affairs structure is made up of both active duty and reserve component units. The 96th CA Battalion, the only such battalion in the active Army makes up only 4 percent of the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs resources. The remaining 96 percent come from other units in the reserve component such as the 351st, 352nd and 353rd CA Commands and the 361st and 358th CA Brigades.
The men and women of Civil Affairs have a wide variety of missions. Each unit has specialized teams to: prevent civilian interference with tactical operations, assist tactical commanders in discharging their responsibilities toward the civilian population, provide liaison with civilian governmental agencies, cope with monuments and captured art and archives, help restore a friendly nation’s legal or economic system and a host of other functions such as fighting famine, disease and death, feeding innocent victims of destruction, protecting the legal rights of the destitute and ensuring continued education of the young.
The only active duty Civil Affairs unit, the 96th has five companies and a headquarters element. Each company has a displaced-persons/refugee/evacuee team. The battalion as a whole has teams that concentrate on civil supply, displaced persons, refugee/evacuees, public safety and public health.
In March 1986, the 96th officially became an airborne unit. It is stationed at Fort Bragg and has performed civil affairs missions throughout the world. Its performance in Grenada during Operation URGENT FURY and in Panama during Operation JUST CAUSE were classics of the constructive use of this scarce asset. They were also the first Civil Affairs unit to be sent to Saudi Arabia in August 1990 for Operation Desert Shield. Their planning assistance and host nation support operations were invaluable aids to preparing the theater support structure to sustain the largest and fastest U.S. Army deployment since WW II.
In Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, the active duty 96th CA Battalion was joined by large elements of the Reserve Component Civil Affairs community; some 96 percent of the U. S. Civil Affairs capability resides in the Reserve Component. The 352nd Civil Affairs Command, the 360th CA Brigade, the 354th CA Brigade and the 304th CA Group were some of the major units activated and sent to Saudi Arabia. They were joined by 12 CA Companies, also of the Reserve Component.
Upon the completion of Desert Storm, several CA units were sent to Turkey and Northern Iraq to assist in Operation Provide Comfort. They helped establish camps for 452,000 Kurdish refugees, arranged for food drops and worked with other U. S. and allied units to resettle the refugees.
All the U. S. Army Civil Affairs units–including the 351st, 352nd, 353rd CA Commands and the 96th CA Battalion–are now under the command and control the U. S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC). This Major Subordinate Command of USASOC marks the first time all the Active Duty and Reserve Component CA units have been placed under one command.
Civil Affairs personnel continue to support the Army’s missions. Teams worked in Somalia as valuable links between the Army units and the many non-governmental aid organizations (NGOs) and private volunteer organizations (PVOs). They stood ready in Haiti to assist in population control during the planned combat operations and then quickly shifted gears to assist in the non- violent resolution of the crisis by U. S. negotiators. Teams from Civil Affairs units in the active and reserve component worked in refugee camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Panama, and Surinam for Cuban and Haitian migrants. With the restoration of the Aristide government, civil affairs experts worked with the new regime to restructure the Haitian armed forces (FaH’d) into a police force, reorganize the judicial structure, prepare for free elections, restore some of the infrastructure and a myriad of other tasks.
The purpose of psychological operations (PSYOP) is to demoralize the enemy by causing dissension and unrest among his ranks, while at the same time convincing the local population to support American troops. PSYOP units also provide continuous analysis of the attitudes and behavior of enemy forces to the tactical commanders in the field, so they can develop, produce and employ propaganda in a successful manner.
Psychological Operations are a vital part of the broad range of U.S. political, military, economic and ideological activities used by the U.S. government to secure national objectives. PSYOP is the dissemination of truthful information to foreign audiences in support of U.S. policy and national objectives.(See History of Psychological Operations/Warfare).
Psychological operations support national security objectives during peacetime, contingencies and war. They provide commanders a critical, force-multiplying capability that can be used at tactical, operational and strategic levels of operations. For a chart on the organizational structure of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) PSYOP Forces, click here.
Strategic psychological operations advance broad or long-term objectives. Global in nature, they may be directed toward large audiences or at key communicators. Operational psychological operations are conducted on a smaller scale. They are employed by theater commanders to target groups within the theater of operations. Their purpose can range from gaining support for U.S. operations to preparing the battlefield for combat.
Tactical psychological operations are more limited, used by commanders to secure immediate and near-term goals. In this environment, these force-enhancing activities serve as a means to lower the morale and efficiency of enemy forces. Both tactical and theater-level psychological operations may be used to enhance peacetime military activities of conventional and special operations forces operating in foreign countries. Cultural awareness packages attune U.S. forces before departing overseas’. In theater, media programs publicize the positive aspects of combined military exercises and deployments.
In addition to supporting commanders, psychological operations provide interagency support to other U.S. government agencies. In operations ranging from humanitarian assistance to drug interdiction, psychological operations enhance the impact of actions taken by those agencies. Their activities can be used to spread information about ongoing programs and to gain support from the local populace.
PSYOP troops accomplish their mission by disseminating propaganda messages in the form of leaflets, posters, broadcasts and audio-visual tapes. PSYOP units have their own intelligence analysts, illustrators, photographers, layout specialists, printers and loudspeaker teams who prepare and distribute propaganda products.
PSYOP units were extremely effective during World War II, and later saw extensive action in southeast Asia after the 6th Battalion arrived in Vietnam in 1965. On Dec. 1, 1967, the 6th was reorganized into the 4th Psychological Operations Group, which remained there until 1971. From 1966 to 1971, twelve PSYOP soldiers were killed in action and 36 were wounded.
Throughout the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s, the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne)(POG (A)) made its headquarters at Fort Bragg, where it remains today.
The 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C., remains today as the only active duty U.S. Army Psychological Operations Group. Its forces constitutes 26 percent of all U.S. Army psychological operations units. The remaining 74 percent of psychological operations resources are in the Reserve component.
The 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) is under the command and control of the United States Army Special Operations Command. The 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) is comprised of a Headquarters Company, 4 Regional Support Battalions, a Media Dissemination Battalion, and a Tactical Battalion. With only about 1,500 soldiers and 36 civilian analysts in the entire group, the battalions are small with generally fewer than 250 soldiers, compared with a standard infantry battalion of about 750 soldiers.
The 4 Regional Support Battalions (RSB) are the 1st Psychological Operations Battalion, which has regional responsibility for the southern hemisphere covered by Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), the 5th Psychological Operations Battalion which supports the Pacific (PACOM), the 6th Psychological Operations Battalion, which supports Europe (EUCOM) and Africa (AFRICOM)(not including the Horn of Africa), and the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion, which supports the Middle East (CENTCOM) and the Horn of Africa.
Regional PSYOP is conducted at the strategic and operational levels and operates under the staff proponency of the Theater/Joint Task Force (JTF) J3. The regional PSYOP battalion commander develops and executes the theater commander’s or JTF Commander’s PSYOP campaign plan, and when directed by the Commander, 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), establishes and provides the Joint PSYOP Task Force Commander.
Each Regional Battalion consists of a Headquarters Support Company, a PSYOP Development Company which is further broken down into a Plans Programs Detachment, a Target Audience Analysis Detachment and a Test Evaluation Detachment, and a Strategic Studies Detachment which includes civilians with language and cultural expertise in the region supported by the unit. The civilians provide long-term regional analysis and may deploy on missions.
The 9th Psychological Operations Battalion (POB) is the Tactical Support Battalion for the 4th PSYOP Group. Tactical PSYOP is that associated with “face-to- face” operations in support of maneuver units within the theater and the designated area of operations. Tactical PSYOP Planning elements are available to each supported tactical echelon brigade combat team to corps headquarters. The smallest tactical organization is the Tactical PSYOP Team (TPTs), routinely found in support of conventional Army brigades or special operations battalions. These elements enable tactical commanders to communicate directly with the enemy and foreign civilians. Tactical PSYOP elements disseminate products normally developed by the regional battalions or by the Psychological Operation Task Force (POTF) The 9th POB has worldwide responsibility for all short-notice rapid deployment tactical PSYOP/information support requirements with organic light product development, loudspeaker (helicopters and vehicles), and electronic news gathering capabilities.
The 3rd Military Information Support Battalion is the Media Dissemination Battalion for the 4th PSYOP Group. The 3rd Military Information Support Battalion is a functionally-oriented dissemination and broadcast battalion whose four major companies possess the 4th Psychological Operations Group’s organic print, radio and television broadcast, media and audio-visual production and communication capabilities. The 3rd PSYOP Battalion is capable of deploying these capabilities or they can be produced by the battalion at Fort Bragg, NC and shipped to the forward deployed PSYOP detachment in theater. If local host nation support agreements are in place, PSYOP personnel can print on foreign presses and broadcast facilities from existing infrastructure in area of operations. The battalion is made up of a Headquarters Company, a Print Company, a Broadcast Company, Media Production Company and a Distribution Company. The 3rd POB is responsible for all radio, television, digital-audio-visual and print assets for developing PSYOP products such as leaflets, posters, handbills, newspapers, radio and television broadcasts. In September 2010, SGM Herb Friedman (Ret.) visited the 3rd Psychological Battalion and found that it had been entirely modernized. The name had been officially changed to the 3rd Military Information Support Battalion. It now worked out of a modern Media Operations Complex (MOC) in Ft. Bragg. The Army was eliminating the printing specialty. Alpha Company (Print) now prints leaflets using geospatial engineers (21Y) and multimedia specialists (25M). The old manual printing presses were all gone and replaced by high speed Kodak S3000 NexPress Digital Presses that could produce ready-to-disseminate dry leaflets, posters, handbills, booklets, magazines and stickers.
Bravo Company (Broadcast) produces and broadcasts radio and television content. They can repair and operate indigenous radio and TV stations. The troops consist of visual equipment operators (25R), combat photographers (25V) and broadcast journalists (46R).
Charlie Company (Distribution) provides fixed-site and deployable PSYOP distribution nodes. They provide world-wide product distribution support and are able to send and receive PSYOP products to deployed teams rapidly and efficiently.
Delta Company (Production) runs the media production center and can provide audio and visual propaganda to global PSYOP missions. They can produce animation if needed and also hold the Battalion’s PSYOP archives.
On deployments the unit generally forms a task force composed of soldiers from a regional battalion forming the core, while soldiers from the 3rd Military Information Support Battalion (the Media Dissemination Battalion) provide the media expertise, and soldiers from the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion provide the tactical expertise in theater.
In addition to the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), there are two Psychological Operations Groups (the 2nd and 7th PSYOP Groups) in the U. S. Army Reserve which are under the command of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command.
The 193rd Special Operations Wing is a Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit that supports the PSYOP Groups missions with their EC-130 Commando Solo aircraft. These flying PSYOP platforms are able to broadcast products developed by Army PSYOP units on AM and FM radio, and TV images over any frequency.
The performance of PSYOP units in Panama and the Persian Gulf has provided the world evidence of the power of persuasion in achieving fantastic results. The surrender of 60,000 Iraqis in Operation Desert Storm was due in no small measure to the sophisticated and well-orchestrated PSYOP campaign of the 4th POG, ably supported by loudspeaker teams from a wide variety of PSYOP units of the Reserve Component. Their efforts saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of allied and Iraqi lives.
In Turkey, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo, members of the 4th Psychological Operations Group were in the vanguard of support. In Turkey and Northern Iraq, during Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, PSYOP personnel ensured that leaflet drops pointed out safe routes for the Kurdish refugees, drop zones for supplies and informing the Kurds of the danger of mines. In Somalia, during Operation RESTORE HOPE, they set up radio stations, handed out leaflets, and even published a newspaper: Rajo (Hope). In Haiti, PSYOP played an integral part in Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY. In Haiti, they help stabilize a potential confrontational upheaval by preparing leaflets and loudspeaker messages stating the U.S. mission to restore Aristide and asking for public support. When the crisis situations arose in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, PSYOP responded participating in Operations PROVIDE RELIEF, JOINT ENDEAVOR, JOINT GUARD and ALLIED FORCE. Wherever the United States responds to a crisis, the men and women of psychological operations stand ready to assist and deploy at a moments notice.