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Iraqi soldiers taught 'strength through truth' in PA course

by Staff Sgt. Mike Meares
Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula Public Affairs

8/18/2008 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFPN) -- Iraqi Special Operations Forces have learned the value of "strength through truth" through a public affairs and photojournalism course conducted in Baghdad, Iraq, recently.

Ten ISOF soldiers who graduated the 15-day course can now effectively combat anti-Iraqi forces' misinformation campaigns.

As coalition forces advanced on Baghdad in 2003, Saddam Hussein's media chief tried to deceive the Iraqi people by saying that the images they saw on television were not images of the city. Today, insurgents also use the media to spread deceit, manipulation and fear among the people of Iraq.

The graduates intend to use their new skills to build trust and maintain a positive relationship between ISOF and the people of Iraq.

"The most valuable thing is the trust of the people," an Iraqi counter terrorism forces sergeant said. "It starts with the truth."

The course is an adaptation of two courses at the Defense Information School, whose motto is "Strength Through Truth." Advisers with DINFOS, located at Fort George G. Meade, Md., distilled the Basic Public Affairs Specialist-Writer and Public Affairs Qualification courses into a 15-day field course to teach the basics of photojournalism and public affairs operations.

"They (the ISOF) are the best unit in Iraq's military," the adviser said. "By learning public affairs and photojournalism skills, they can show the Iraqi people what ISOF is doing to bring peace and stability to Iraq."

During the course, the students wrote stories about activities at ISOF headquarters. Each student wrote a story on a live-fire training exercise, an outing between ISOF and a children's scouting program, a personality feature and a unit feature.

"They caught on very quickly and were creative with their stories," the advisor said. "Some of the training was rough in the beginning because this is a new subject to them, but that's why we train."

As the course progressed, the instructor noted improvement in students' understanding and enthusiasm.

"Each day, there was something new to learn about writing or photography," the ICTF sergeant said. "We were eager to take what we learned one day and carry it to the next."

The graduates are now prepared to perform as military public affairs specialists and journalists. They have the skills to interact with both the community and the media to earn and build a trusting relationship. They are also prepared to release information to report news and command information about ISOF operations and activities.

"We are the connection between the Army and the people of Iraq," an ICTF private first class said.

The soldiers have learned to apply various research methods and fundamentals of journalism with an emphasis on style, format and techniques. They also learned the basic operation of the digital camera and photojournalism skills.

The truth builds a trusting relationship between the army and the people, the ISOF sergeant said. He believes this new skill is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

"Sometimes the people don't know what we are doing in the army," he said. "We can now tell the good things we are doing for the safety and security of our people. We want Iraq to be a safe place."

The ISOF chief of media, a captain, agreed with his soldiers and said that the days of lying to the public -- as Saddam Hussein and his regime did -- are long over. The ISOF will use newspapers and the Internet to share the truth with the Iraqi people.

"These soldiers are doing great things all around the country, and now they have individuals who are trained to tell the Iraqi people about it," the ISOF captain said. "They can show the truth about their battle to liberate Iraq."

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