“PSYOP soldiers are considered special operations forces and are trained to distribute information by television, radio, loudspeaker, and leaflets to alter the behavior of enemy forces and local populations to align with the United States’ national security objectives.”
Psychological operations are military operations conducted to persuade and influence the behavior of enemy forces and civilian populations in foreign countries. In 2011, the United States Army attempted to rebrand PSYOP to “Military Information Support Operations,” or MISO. The change was meant to use a term found to be less controversial and was briefly reversed in 2015. Now the Army is again reversing its decision to rebrand PSYOP to MISO.
In 2011, the Army was looking for a more general term to describe what PSYOP units do. MISO sounded like a “kinder, gentler” version of their mission and especially suited the work that PSYOP units often do with agencies like the State Department. The reversal appears to have more to do with administrative reasons, as the change created confusion for some within the army. It also created confusion when working with partner forces from allied nations, as the term PSYOP is used by most of the militaries that US forces work with.
The name change reversal comes amid a political backdrop in which the United States government is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
In an interview published on Monday, Lieutenant Colonel Brad Carr, the director of information operations at U.S. Army Special Operations Command, told the Army Times, “Given Russian disinformation, given this new world where the information fight is becoming more complex and nuanced, there’s a level of pride when I can say, I’m a PSYOP soldier in a PSYOP unit that has this lineage and did these kinds of things.”
Also known as psychological warfare, PSYOP is a component of the Special Operations Command on the active duty side and is a part of the United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC) on the reserve side. PSYOP soldiers are considered special operations forces and are trained to distribute information by television, radio, loudspeaker, and leaflets to alter the behavior of enemy forces and local populations to align with the United States’ national security objectives.
It is a difficult position to obtain and fitting that the term associated with it carry a level of importance that is well recognized within the international community.
Some form of psychological warfare has been used in nearly every major military conflict in US history, including the Global War on Terror. In the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, US Army PSYOP soldiers have operated in small teams and have typically been attached to infantry, cavalry, or special forces units in order to disseminate information on the battlefield.
The change back to PSYOP may also boost morale in the psychological operations community. There is a sense of pride that many soldiers get from being a part of PSYOP, which is often considered to be a difficult job to get. Active duty soldiers looking to join PSYOP must attend a selection process at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
All soldiers, both active duty and reserve, who wish to join PSYOP must have a GT score of 120 or higher on their ASVAB. Soldiers must score well on the Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) and may be required to attend Airborne School and the Defense Language Institute (DLI). It is a difficult position to obtain and fitting that the term associated with it carry a level of importance that is well recognized within the international community.