Get Psyched!

By Second Lieutenant Richard M. Rusnok, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps

In both Somalia and Haiti, PsyOps units operated with Marines. In Somalia, these units were tasked with reducing the number of clashes between Somalis and the multinational forces. The PsyOps sections of the joint task force ran articles in local newspapers describing the misfortune that befell Somalis who threatened the well-equipped multinational troops. In Haiti, the arrival of U.S. forces was preceded by leaflet drops and helicopters blaring loudspeaker messages above Port-au-Prince. Tactical PsyOps continued throughout the operation, and were particularly effective in inducing the surrender of Haitian police and the successful confiscation of weapons caches without violence. Both PsyOps campaigns were orchestrated carefully, and supported both the strategic and tactical objectives.

PsyOps are extremely important at the tactical level. As the Marine Corps experiments with augmenting the firepower of the ground and air combat components of the MEU(SOC) through the Hunter Warrior and Urban Warrior exercises, it also must consider what PsyOps can do to enhance those capabilities and shape the battlefield in a way that makes best use of the MEU(SOC)'s limited capabilities. Phillip Katz points out that PsyOps can support tactical operations in several ways:

First, it gives enemy soldiers encouragement and direction with respect to surrender; second, by means of a psychological operations campaign, it increases the impact of lethal weapons; third, it is used to counter enemy propaganda; fourth, it provides the enemy with selected items of factual information; fifth, it is used to lower enemy morale by emphasizing the futility of the situation; sixth, it is used in support of friendly partisans and guerilla activities; seventh, it helps control enemy and friendly civilians in forward areas; eighth, it assists in rear area defense and damage control; and, finally, it is used to publicize and disseminate military proclamations and notices.

Many of these capabilities complement the aims of the Marines' Sea Dragon concept. However, once one establishes the reasons why the Marine Corps should establish a PsyOps capability, one must look at the realities of implementing the concept.

There are several challenges in implementing PsyOps in the MEU(SOC), especially with funding and personnel. With the Marine Corps disestablishing the seagoing security detachments in order to streamline its personnel structure, the big question is: Where will the personnel fit into this scheme? There are a few options here. Some would suggest that the Corps could borrow personnel from the Army and deploy them with the MEU(SOC). There are several problems with this. While this fits today's joint operations spirit, it is difficult for the Army to spare its PsyOps personnel. They play a vital role in the openended commitment to Bosnia and their heavy reserve component would be difficult to integrate into the MEU(SOC) workup period and subsequent six-month deployment. They also have commitments to the XVIII Airborne Corps to provide forces for deployment. Finally, there are strong arguments for maintaining the all-Marine orientation of the MEU(SOC).

Also entangled in the personnel problem is a question of how to designate and train Marines for PsyOps units. Because PsyOps are so "`interdependent," it may be feasible to integrate PsyOps into the intelligence community. However, that overworked community would find itself moving in many different directions simultaneously. The Marine Corps likely would have to create an officer and various enlisted military occupational specialties for PsyOps. This would be a relatively small community and would require a special status much like the Chemical/Biological Initial Response Force. The Army PsyOps curriculum could be used for initial training in PsyOps operations, which then could be augmented by on-the-job training with active units. Officers should attend the foreign area officer program, to enhance their ability to work with foreign governments.

There are important organizational aspects to consider in any PsyOps force structure. First, PsyOps units must be attached to all three Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEFs), for support of their MEU(SOC)s. Each MEF should have a company with three platoon-sized units so they can rotate through the MEU(SOC) deployment schedule. The exception would be III MEF where two units would be sufficient. For III MEF, it might be possible to arrange a unit deployment plan that allows the PsyOps units to remain stateside, to reduce costs and concentrate resources in one place. Within the platoon, the best organization would be a microcosm of the 4th PsyOps Group with two squads in the platoon concentrating on tactical PsyOps (i.e., speaker teams) and the remaining squad should be a PsyOps dissemination squad which specializes in broadcast and print media. In the event of the deployment of the MEF, the unit could be reorganized into tactical and dissemination platoons as needed. Any PsyOps unit must remain under the operational control of the Marine Corps. It should not be controlled by USSOCom because it would likely lose its tactical orientation and be used for evolutions not supporting Marine Corps missions.

When deployed with the MEU(SOC) there also is the problem of whether or not it should be a part of the ground combat element (GCE) or the command element. PsyOps are a tool of the commander and should remain with the command element at all times. Their cultural and language capabilities would also assist the MEU(SOC) commander in assessing the enemy. Their personnel could be assigned to various parts of the ground combat element but they must be used to support all elements of the MEU(SOC).

The next question concerns capabilities. PsyOps units need to have a defined set of missions so that they can train properly to accomplish this task. They must have the capability to print leaflets and create radio and television broadcasts to support the MEU(SOC). They also must have loudspeaker teams with sufficient language capabilities to communicate with their intended audience. Their expertise must include cultural knowledge oriented toward the area in which they are likely to be deployed. For example, units slated for use with East Coast MEU(SOC)s should concentrate on Western Africa and the Mediterranean, while the West Coast must be familiar with Southern Asia, East Africa, and the Middle East. They should be able to communicate by means of high speed data links with other national assets in order to develop a cohesive PsyOps battle plan. These national assets would include intelligence agencies (National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Naval Intelligence) as well as their counterparts at Fort Bragg.

The final question involves one of equipment. Many may say that the MEU(SOC) is overloaded already and that the addition of more personnel and equipment to the amphibious ready group (ARG) would be physically infeasible. There are several factors that such critics do not take into consideration. First, most ships, especially the Tarawa (LHA-1)- and Wasp (LHD-1)-class ships, possess broadcast production facilities and print shops. These could be used to create PsyOps materials. According to Commander Randall Bowdish, the Wasp class ships "would not suffer the problems associated with small combatants. The Wasp class already carries a complement of linguists, who operate the combat direction finding system. As an amphibious assault ship, transport of PsyOps equipment and personnel ashore would be a routine matter." The air combat element could assist in the distribution of leaflets. Also with the upcoming modernization of the venerable UH-1N Iroquois helicopter it may be possible to integrate a modular radio and television broadcast unit into the new airframe. This unit would be removed when not in use and should have the capability to broadcast in both media as well as act as a relay station for signals originating from the amphibious ready group or other higher headquarters. The UH-1N also could be modified to carry high-power loudspeakers. Not every UH-1N would have to be modified to carry out PsyOps; two aircraft per MEU(SOC) would offer an adequate capability. The CH-53E or even the MV-22 also could be candidates for such a mission.

Loudspeaker teams could mount their equipment on the MEU(SOC)'s Humvees easily. One such vehicle for each rifle company would carry enough capability for the MEU(SOC). The PsyOps unit also must be interoperable with Army and Air Force units in order to coordinate the early stages of the campaign. A MEU(SOC) PsyOps unit could act as an enabling force for follow-on PsyOps forces if an extended campaign becomes a reality. Having the same equipment and possessing an understanding of Army and Air Force PsyOps doctrine will be key to implementing this. PsyOps units also must be well-versed in joint task force (JTF) operations, to preclude their contradicting the JTF commander's or the theater commander-in-chief's operational concepts.

With the MEU(SOC) often being the National Command Authorities' first choice in responding to operations other than war, the Marine Corps no longer can ignore the PsyOps short-fall in this otherwise highly successful organization. It goes against the traditions of the Marine Corps not to recognize, study, and tackle this problem. As a first step, PsyOps test programs should be incorporated into the Sea Dragon exercises.

Lieutenant Rusnok is a native of Pittston, Pennsylvania.  He was an honors history major at the Naval Academy and is in the Voluntary Graduate Education Program (VGEP) at The George Washington University. After attending The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, Lieutenant Rusnok will report to Pensacola, Florida for flight training as a Marine pilot.

 

 
 

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