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BACKGROUND: The training, maturity, and quality of the individuals assigned to SOF units made them ideal for this operation. SOF soldiers, with their unique skills, provided the right mix for humanitarian support.


TOPIC: SF, Working with Indigenous Personnel.

DISCUSSION: The SF personnel were sent to the mountains of northern Iraq and southern Turkey as part of JTF-Alpha. They organized the humanitarian assistance operation for the Kurds, using the existing family and tribal organization in their organization of the camps. Indigenous and nomadic people have a traditional organization that is used in everyday life. This organization varies from people to people; however, it generally is organized using the elders as heads of the individual families and tribal leaders based on traditional tribal hierarchy. If any other system is used to determine leadership, then the chain of command will likely fail. If an appointed system is used, the appointed leaders will not be inclined to take control of personnel who hold a higher tribal rank, and the higher ranking personnel will tend not to listen or follow the orders or advice of lower ranking personnel.


  • When working with indigenous tribes or personnel, always attempt to find out if there is an internal organization to the personnel.

  • When organizing these personnel, ensure that all leaders have a higher ranking position in the tribal organization than the personnel that they control.

  • Additionally, the most rapid way to organize tribal personnel is to use their organization without change, but with new missions assigned to old positions.

TOPIC: SF, Unconventional Warfare (UW) Doctrine Fits Well into the Humanitarian Mission.

DISCUSSION: The SOF elements, tasked to organize humanitarian assistance for the Kurds, planned and conducted operations using the same techniques that would be used to organize Guerrillas for combat operations. The elements planned, infiltrated, assessed, organized, and trained the Kurdish refugees. However, instead of training the personnel in combat-oriented operations, the SOF soldiers trained the Kurdish personnel to construct sanitation facilities and water storage areas and to control their own people to ensure fair food and water distribution. Additionally, the SF medical personnel not only treated the injured and sick personnel, but also conducted training for the refugees in the prevention and treatment of the various camp sicknesses and diseases such as dysentery.


  • The use of SF personnel should be considered in the conduct of refugee operations around the world, when the terrain and hostilities might otherwise prevent the assistance by other means.

  • In this case, SF personnel were received very well. However, in future humanitarian assistance operations, SF may be politically difficult to introduce in certain geographic areas and equally difficult to support as humanitarian assistance workers to international assistance agencies.

TOPIC: SF, Sling-loading of Supplies.

DISCUSSION: The primary rotary-wing means for transporting supplies of the mountain camps was through the use of internal loads. During the supply operations for the mountain camps, the use of internal loads hampered the transport of supplies. This presented a problem. Refugees would, at times, push in close to the aircraft while they were on the ground, causing injuries of refugees and damage to the aircraft. Due to the dangers to the refugees, ground personnel, and the aircraft, landing operations were at one time stopped and replaced by a hovering off-load. Due to the drop, off-loading of supplies from a hover caused the destruction of critical supplies, and injuries to personnel hit by the supplies. The use of a sling load would have prevented the dangers to all parties since the aircraft could have hovered out of danger and placed the supplies on the ground safely. Supply operations would have been more efficient since it takes less time to sling-load supplies than it does to load them internally. Internal and external loads could have been used on aircraft, such as the CH-46, 47 and 53, since they are able to carry large internal loads as well as sling loads. However, with the UH-1H and the UH-60 aircraft, the use of sling load would have ensured faster turnarounds and maximum loading of the aircraft.


  • When planning for the use of rotary-wing supply operations, have units ensure that they deploy with all sling-loading supplies and equipment.

  • Recognize the hazards of having refugee personnel in close vicinity of landing aircraft, and plan for the use of sling loads.

TOPIC: SF, Cultural Awareness.

DISCUSSION: The SF soldiers tasked with the Operation PROVIDE COMFORT mission were not area- or language-oriented, since northern Iraq is not their normal area of operation. However, because of their past operations with various people around the world, and past training ranging from the SF qualification course to unit-level training, the soldiers recognized the importance of cultural awareness. Within a matter of days, the SF soldiers knew the customs of the people, allowing them to establish rapport critical to mission success.


  • Units must strive to provide their soldiers with a cultural brief, to make them aware of the culture of the people prior to infiltration into their mission area. Remember, even though you can speak the native language, you must still be aware of the cultural aspects of the populace.

  • You cannot expect to interact efficiently with the indigenous populace if you do not understand their customs and way of life.

  • A pre-mission brief and a little effort on the individual soldier's part will go a long way toward mission success when dealing with indigenous people.

  • CA units allocated to geographic areas can provide cultural and area briefing teams or materiels to units in preparation for deployment or after arrival.

In addition to the SF teams in the mountain camps, other SOF, CA, and psychological operations (PSYOP) units were busy accomplishing their missions as well.

Every general officer (GO) interviewed validated the following statement:

"Operation PROVIDE COMFORT was a tremendous success, and JTF-Alpha's Special Forces Teams were the only ones who could have accomplished the mission in the mountains."


BACKGROUND: CA units that had been tasked earlier to provide support to Operation DESERT STORM were redeployed in April 1991 to northern Iraq and southern Turkey to support Operation PROVIDE COMFORT. CA units are specifically structured to serve as the commander's executive agent for Civil-Military operations. For this reason, CA units should be among the first considered for inclusion in humanitarian assistance operations. To retain many of the functional skills necessary for some Civil-Military Operations, the majority of CA forces are in the Reserve Components (RC). These skills are practiced as full-time professionals such as civil government, public health services and labor relations. There is an Active Component (AC) unit, the 96th Civil Affairs (CA) Battalion (Airborne), at Fort Bragg, NC. It is both a contingency force, and a Special Operations Force. In many cases, AC units and their commanders are not completely aware of CA capabilities. In addition, they may not be knowledgeable of CA deployment procedures. These factors may cause commanders to "undertask" CA units.

During Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, CA units performed these primary missions as well as other command-directed tasks.

  • Coordinated Foreign Nation Support.
  • Provided Civil administration support to a friendly or Allied government.
  • Conducted area assessments, and assisted in preparing area studies.
  • Conducted humanitarian and civil assistance activities and assisted with DC and refugee camps.
  • Identified political, economic, and social vulnerabilities.
  • Served as an interface with UNHCR, NGOs/PVOs.
  • Advised commanders on the conduct of Civil-Military operations.
  • Conducted dislocated civilian operations, including operation of camps.
  • Provided CA liaison and coordination.

NOTE: Additionally, these are the capabilities of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), as an SOF asset:

  • To support SOF in Unconventional Warfare (UW), Foreign Internal Defense (FID), and Direct Action (DA) missions.
  • To conduct Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO).


DISCUSSION: Under CA doctrine (FM 41-10 (DRAFT)), C2 of CA assets is exercised at each level through the supported tactical unit. Civil-Military operations and CA are a command responsibility. Command of CA elements is the same as the command of any other military asset, and should follow one of the three standard command relationships in Army doctrine; OPCON, DS, or attached. CA units are allocated to Army units and task forces to assist the commander in carrying out his mission and responsibilities. Command, to include reporting, is exercised through operations channels because civil-military operations are operations. In Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, command of CA units was not always accomplished through operations and command channels. This created confusion and distracted from efficient mission accomplishment.

LESSON(S): Once committed, CA elements, unless otherwise directed, should exercise the chain of command through the unit they support or until the command relationship is changed. All CA commanders must enforce this as a minimal control measure.

TOPIC: CA, Timely Insertion of CA Elements.

DISCUSSION: CA forces arrived in Turkey and Iraq approximately three weeks after the start of Operation PROVIDE COMFORT. CA companies (USAR) were deployed from Saudi Arabia. The 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) was recalled from block leave from Fort Bragg, NC. The 354th Civil Affairs Brigade Headquarters (-) was deployed from EUCOM. CA assets were bumped from one scheduled flight to make room for tent poles. Early deployment might have allowed CA to work closer with the JTF-Alpha SF Teams from the very start of the operation and to develop a more comprehensive assessment of the situation in the various mountain camps. The CA units that were able to work with JTF-Alpha in the mountain camps provided medical assistance and water distribution expertise.


  • All headquarters should include CA personnel in the planning process. Trained CA personnel are available to Army units by assignment of Functional Area (FA) 39 officers to S-5, G-5 shops. FA 39 training includes foreign language, graduate school, CA and PSYOP courses, and regional studies courses.

  • Army units should ensure S-5 and G-5 billets are coded xx/39 on authorization documents to receive school-trained personnel. These personnel should handle all Civil-Military planning. S-5 and G-5 civil affairs slots should not be holding patterns for officers enroute to other duties.

  • Humanitarian assistance is a CA mission. At the beginning of an operation, CA should be integrated at every level.

CA assets performed a variety of missions that would have been foreign to other military assets. They administered DC camps, coordinated with the NGOs, PVOs, and UN-related entities, facilitated visits throughout the area of operation by civilian visitors, performed area assessments, and coordinated extensively with host-nation authorities in Turkey. They also conducted extensive interviews with the NGOs and PVOs in northern Iraq and determined the scope and timing of the expected arrival of their supplies.


PSYOPs units were tasked to provide significant quantities of printed material. It was very beneficial for informing the local population about food substances, to stopping rumors. In many cases, unit commanders are unaware of PSYOP capabilities and employment considerations. The following represents PSYOP at the corps level:

PSYOP Battalion:

  • Commands and controls two to seven PSYOP companies, providing PSYOP support to a corps.
  • Plans and conducts PSYOP in support of corps operations.
  • Analyzes, targets, and prepares propaganda for one or two separate, but similar, ethno-linguistic groups on a continuous basis. These groups may be friendly, hostile, or neutral.

Operational Support Company:

  • Plans and conducts counter propaganda operations.
  • Provides medium printing plant support for the production of printed propaganda.
  • Plans, produces, and disseminates propaganda in direct support of a separate brigade or armored cavalry regiment.
  • May reinforce a tactical PSYOP company.

Tactical PSYOP Company:

  • Plans, produces, and disseminates propaganda in direct support of a division, separate brigade, or armored cavalry regiment.
  • Provides advice and assistance on the planning and conduct of tactical deception operations.


  • The corps must ensure continuity with strategic and operational PSYOP being conducted at echelons above corps.
  • Augmentation of the PSYOP battalion by indigenous writers, announcers, illustrators, and interpreters will enhance the operational effectiveness of the unit.

PSYOP campaign plans take too long to approve at the national level. This precludes the rapid integration deployment of these units, but the plans should be complete before deployment of this type unit.

PSYOP units did a superb job in the camps. They developed a tape on registration which was played over and over to ensure everyone knew how to register and how to receive tentage, water, food, and medical treatment. Without PSYOP assistance, registration in the camps would have been 50 percent less effective. PYSOP is most effective when used in communicating verbal and nonverbal (leaflets) themes to the local people.

The PSYOP themes in northern Iraq were:

  • KURDS - Self-reliance and cooperation will ensure survival and comfort of all.
  • IRAQI MILITARY - Allied forces have the capability and will to protect humanitarian operations.
  • PKK - An attack against humanitarian relief will be counterproductive to cause.
  • IRAQI CITIZENS - Humanitarian operations in northern Iraq are being conducted in accordance with a UN resolution and are morally correct in the eyes of Allah.

In some cases, during Kurdish demonstrations, the PSYOP unit used loudspeakers if they were available. Following are some examples of the leaflets that were dropped:

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias