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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005





Part II

Transition to a New Campaign


Chapter 7
Fighting the Battle of Ideas in Iraq

 

Telling the Story “Back Home”

Like those involved in IO, Army PA Soldiers after May 2003 faced their own challenges in Iraq. As discussed in chapter 4, the full manning of the CJTF-7 staff took some time, and during the critical summer of 2003, Army PA manning levels were inadequate to support the mission at nearly every level of command. The Coalition did take an important step in enabling PA operations in July 2004 when it established the Combined Press Information Center (CPIC). However, even that organization was undermanned, initially receiving only one of five PA officers and none of the additional Mobile Public Affairs Detachments (MPADs) requested.114

Developing a PA plan to support the overall campaign and clearly communicating it to multiple audiences was extremely difficult. PA operations were traditionally divided into three functions: community relations, command information, and media relations. In OIF, community relations were primarily the purview of CA and PSYOP units. In Iraq, command information involved internal Army communications, such as a monthly print publication called the Coalition Chronicle [later called The Scimitar], the Armed Forces Network, and the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. Media relations involved working with the various American and international media outlets.115 In Iraq, PA units inherited a new and rather unique mission—assisting Iraqis in developing a media establishment suitable to a free society. This section examines PA efforts in support of the command information and media relations missions.

In support of domestic community relations, PA units kept Soldiers’ families updated on events in Iraq in a variety of ways. PA units contacted local hometown newspapers and released stories about Soldiers’ activities. They conducted live interviews with Soldiers to be released to hometown television stations. They also created and maintained a Web site and posted a weekly newsletter for Soldiers and their families. The PA units produced and published weekly newsletters for the Soldiers in a specific AOR that contained stories about unit activities and operations. PA officers also made memorial videos to send to the unit and to families of Soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq. These communications provided Soldiers in Iraq an opportunity to honor their fallen comrades.116

The PA mission at each level of command in OIF was to enact and support the commander’s strategic communications plan. As was the case with IO assets, Army units at brigade and lower levels lacked organic PA capability. Units above the brigade found that their PA staffs were too small for the myriad tasks they inherited. As the PA chief for the 139th MPAD during its tour in support of Task Force Olympia during 2004, Captain Angela Bowman explained that the success of any PA plan depended heavily on the task force, brigade, or division commander’s support of the plan “because if that commander is not supportive of PA, you are going nowhere fast.”117 Because of the complexity of the full spectrum campaign after May 2003, PAOs, many of whom came from the US Army Reserve or Army National Guard, found themselves briefing busy commanders to educate them about the potential uses of PA concepts in support of their overall operations.118

New technology aided the ability of PA units to get the story in Iraq out to the American public. In 2004 the Army launched the Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS), which allowed the MPADs using the system in Iraq, Kuwait, or Afghanistan to send text, photos, and video footage to a teleport in Atlanta.119 In the United States, DVIDS users “ranging from the civilian media to military personnel seeking to acquire information from the field” acquired the “real-time, broadcast-quality products from a centralized, archived database via the satellite feed.”120 This system especially helped to quickly publicize Soldiers’ activities and commanders’ objectives, and assisted in providing an imagery resource for media markets to use in reporting news from Iraq. In addition, the DVIDS allowed MPADs to conduct live press briefings or interviews with officials in Iraq to be broadcast anywhere in the world. Lieutenant Colonel Will Beckman, a senior PA officer in Iraq, considered the speed of the system to be the critical factor in its effectiveness: “The speed is the critical thing . . . there’s nothing new in this, we can just do it much, much faster and at greater quality.”121


Chapter 7. Fighting the Battle of Ideas in Iraq





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