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ICB reaches out to BiH population

By Sgt. Kerensa Hardy
First published in
SFOR Informer#110, April 4, 2001

Camp Butmir - One of the most difficult things SFOR is attempting to accomplish during its mission is to try to change the mindset of the BiH population. This is necessary to ensure that things won't regress once SFOR departs.
Combined Joint Psychological Operations Task Force and Information Operations merged in July 2000 to form the Information Campaign Branch. Before this, the two offices were two separate entities.
"The purpose of ICB is to be COMSFOR's means of communicating directly with the population here in BiH," said Danish Army Col. Kurt Mosgaard, ICB chief.
ICB is composed of two parts: the Psychological Operations Support Element (PSE) and Information Operations. The Info Ops section co-ordinates to determine the messages ICB wants to send out. The PSE sends out the messages in the form of magazines, meetings and radio and television programs. The 50 people who make up ICB - 21 civilians and 29 military - work together to develop products through which COMSFOR can influence political leaders and the population. The products speak against things like crime, corruption and drugs.
"Our most important goal is to (get) the population … to understand that they need to work together toward a new BiH - free of war - and understand that nationalistic behavior will not help them," Mosgaard said. "They need to work together for the future of themselves and their children."
To reach these goals, PSE uses the same approach an advertisement agency uses to market a product, said US Army Maj. Paul Hauser, PSE media director. Hauser supervises all those involved in the creative process. "Instead of selling products, we sell ideas and concepts," he said. "We try and persuade people to change their attitudes and beliefs about certain things in accordance with the (General Framework Agreement for Peace) and SFOR's overall mission."
The main products PSE puts out are Radio Mir and magazines. Radio Mir is on the air 24 hours a day in the local language - 12 hours of live programming and 12 hours of computer programming. The broadcast is not intended for the SFOR population, but for the people of BiH. The southwest and southeast multinational divisions have their own radio broadcasts; MND-SW has Oksigen (Oxygen) and MND-SE has Radio Accord (Agreement).
The MNDs share products to air on their respective broadcasts, but all radio shows are tailored to meet the specific needs of the audiences in each area. The radio show features a variety of popular music and is geared to an audience made up of people 15 to 25 years of age.
Although there is no TV station, Hauser said the PSE does produce advertisement spots and documentaries that are distributed to local stations. It also advertises in nationwide, regional and local newspapers
"Everything we do is built around trying to promote SFOR themes and objectives," Hauser said. "Sometimes that entails specific information from the commander of SFOR, but that is not necessarily the sole purpose. We try to target a specific audience."
"We can also see what needs there are and use that to influence behavior and attitudes."
The two magazines produced by PSE are The Herald of Progress and Mirko. The Herald of Progress is aimed at the 25 to 40 age group and contains political and economical goals and issues. Mirko is for a younger group - ages 11 to 17 - and promotes tolerance. Hauser said the magazine provides alternatives and is an attempt to break some of the molds that have been cast in BiH.
"Many of the programs are long-term, it's not something we can cover in a six-month period," Hauser said. "Attitudes and behaviors are learned over a lifetime, and it takes a long time to try and change that."
Since learned behavior cannot be changed overnight, it is somewhat difficult to measure the effect ICB products have on the population.
Hauser said one way to gauge the success is to see the way the BiH community reacts to SFOR personnel in day-to-day interaction. Surveys are also conducted throughout the country.
"It's a gradual process to change somebody's attitude," Hauser said, "especially (concerning) things central to someone's beliefs and that have pain attached to it."
While it takes a long time to see the results of the campaigns, if it's a success, it will have been well worth the time and effort.

Related link:
SFOR at Work