To prepare for the rigors of combat in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Africa and other conflict zones, the U.S. Special Forces visit the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, for several weeks of hyper-realistic training. Bryan William Jones paid a visit to see the training first-hand.
by BRYAN WILLIAM JONES
Two Special Forces roles I was unfamiliar with until this trip were psychological operations and civil affairs. You might recall some infamous psyops tactics, like when U.S. forces played loud music to keep Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega off-kilter before capturing him back in 1989. The wider role of Special Forces psyops in under-reported. Sergeant First Class Daniel Billiott, with the Special Operations Training Detachment, told me that psyops’ major role is to induce or reinforce attitudes and behaviors of foreign nations to be favorable to U.S. or friendly-nation objectives. These operations convey information to foreign audiences to influence motives, emotions and behaviors of governments, organizations and individuals. It’s all about influencing your targets, without firing a shot.
By the same token, Captain David Durante, a civil affairs operations officer, told me his role is to “establish and influence relations between military and civil governmental and nongovernmental groups across the spectrum — from friendly to hostile areas of operations.” While psyops and CA may appear similar, CA is distinct in that it works for U.S. commanders as an interface between the military and civilians, to mitigate the impact of military operations. CA and psyops are designed to accomplish their goals in a “blood-free” fashion.
(Photo: Bryan William Jones)
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