Ronnie S. Stangler, MD


Medscape General Medicine. 2003;5(1) 

In This Article


PSYOPS resources are distributed throughout the US Armed Forces.[2,7,9,10]

Most Army personnel are in reserve components. The single active Army unit is its 4th Psychological Operations Group (airborne) in the Special Operations Command, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 4th PSYOPS has 6 battalions. These elite personnel are trained in persuasion and influence. They have expertise in communications media, regional orientation, language, and culture.

The 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania National Guard in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is the most deployed Air Force National Guard Unit in the country. The 193rd provides an airborne broadcast platform for state and national disasters and emergencies. Four specially configured EC-130 turboprop aircraft (Commander Solo) are equipped for broadcast in AM, FM, HFTV, and military communication bands. Additional Talon aircraft drop leaflets.

Currently, both the Navyand Marines also have PSYOPS capabilities, with more limited broadcasting, leaflet dissemination, and audiovisual production functions.


In mid-December 2002, Commander Solo began broadcasting radio into southern Iraq, urging Iraqi military to abandon their support of Saddam Hussein's regime. The messages attempt to discredit the Hussein regime and stress the distinction between the political regime and innocent military and Iraqi people.

Specific themes of broadcasts, which incorporate Arabic songs, include the regime's diversion of money intended for food to weapons production; the use of state money for personal indulgences, such as palaces; Hussein's use of chemical weapons on his own people; his record of noncompliance with the United Nations; and current world resolve to eliminate his destructive abilities.

A typical radio message: "Soldiers of Iraq. Since the beginning of time, there has been no profession more honorable than a soldier.... The uniform of a soldier...demands respect and loyalty. Soldiers are the defenders of their people, and the protectors of women and children.... Saddam has tarnished this legacy. Saddam seeks only to exploit these brave men.... Do not let Saddam tarnish the reputation of soldiers any longer.... Make the decision."

Sample radio leaflet

Mass dropping of leaflets provides Iraqis with information about the times and frequencies of future US radio broadcasts, as well as further messages attempting to alienate the people from the political regime of Hussein.

Messages appeal to pride and family loyalty, as well as fear.

Front of leaflet, "Before you engage coalition aircraft, think about the consequences."

Back of leaflet, "Think about your family. Do what you must to survive."

The content and style of all messages are researched by experts in culture and language to optimize their effectiveness. Examples of modified graphics in the Iraq campaign: any trace of the color red has been removed, as red is a danger signal to Iraqis; Allied soldiers are shown with chin beards rather than clean-shaven faces, as beards convey trust and brotherhood in Iraqi culture; and bananas were added to a bowl of fruit being offered to surrendering Iraqis, as bananas are a great delicacy in Iraq.

The first known use of mass email, described as a kind of "electronic leaflet drop," has been reported. The email targets Iraqi government and military officials, imploring cooperation with the United States:

"If you use...these ugly weapons (of mass destruction), you will be regarded as war criminals. If you can make these weapons ineffective, then do it. If you can identify (their) light signals, then do it. If all this is not possible, then at least refuse to take part in any activity or follow orders to use weapons of mass destruction."[20]