The Army’s Psychological Operations training course is on the move south. The course is moving its training from Ft. Bragg, NC to Ft. Jackson, SC. The Army’s course trains soldiers to induce or reinforce behavior favorable to U.S. objectives. It is an important part of the range of diplomatic, informational, military and economic activities available to the U.S. About 300 soldiers attend the school’s eight 10-week courses annually.

The move will only consist of about 23 trainers plus the support staff from Ft. Bragg’s Special Warfare Center and School. However, the headquarters for the Civil Affairs and PSYOP units will remain at Ft. Bragg. 

“The relocation better aligns this critical training to a United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) environment on the same installation where these students attended basic training,” the Army released in a statement. Ft. Jackson is one of the Army’s largest basic training bases, pushing out about 45,000 basic training recruits each year. Another 24,000 remain on the base for their Advanced Individual Training (AIT).

This training company will be part of the United States Army Soldier Support Institute’s existing Advanced Individual Training Battalion.

“We’ve developed a great partnership with the Special Warfare Center and School and look forward to integrating this new team as we set conditions for rigorous and realistic training of this unique skill set on Fort Jackson,” Soldier Support Institute Commander Col. Steve Aiton said in the release.

Psychological operations undermine an enemy’s will to fight and use “native language media, television, radio, leaflets, pamphlets and newspapers” to spread targeted messages, according to their doctrine.

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One of PSYOP’s most notable examples occurred during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and was the image of Iraqi civilians toppling a statue of former dictator Saddam Hussein in central Baghdad. News reports at the time claimed the moment was motivated and stoked by Army Psychological Operations soldiers who urged over loudspeakers for Iraqis to topple the monument.

The PSYOP troops also blasted Metallica music for 24 hours at Iraqi POWs during interrogations. Not used to such music, the POWs were worn down before interrogation.

During the invasion of Panama in 1989, Psychological Operations soldiers blasted heavy metal music outside the Papal Nuncio in Panama City in an effort to get General Manuel Noriega to surrender. Also in Panama the many “Ma Bell Operations”, which got several Panamanian bases to surrender without firing a shot, took place. Many of the Panamanian bases had telephone access. Spanish-speaking SF NCOs would phone the Panamian commanders, tell them to put away their weapons and assemble their men on the parade ground or face lethal consequences. Usually, this would also include the flyover of an AC-130 gunship. On more than one occasion, these 7th SFG troops used unarmed cargo C-130s loitering at 6,000 ft. where they couldn’t be identified as such. 

Because of the reliance on telephonic communications, these operations were nicknamed “Ma Bell.” During a 10-day period, TF BLACK (SF) elements were instrumental in the surrender of 14 cuartels (bases), almost 2,000 troops, and over 6,000 weapons without a single U.S. casualty. Several high-ranking officers of the PDF who were on the “most wanted” list were also captured in Ma Bell operations

Back in September 1944 during World War II, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), under the Morale Operations Branch, conducted some of the first examples of electronic PSYOP in the field. Engineers of the 1st Radio Section of the 1st MRBC recorded POW interviews for front-line broadcasts and reproduced the sound effects of vast numbers of tanks and other motor vehicles of Allied armored units in attempts to mislead German intelligence and lower enemy morale.

The first classes for Psychological Operations at Ft. Jackson will begin in March 2020.