By Maj. Richard C. Sater
First published in
SFOR Informer#122, September 19, 2001
A truckload of Mirko magazines arrives at Eagle
Base and unloads shrink-wrapped bundles at the 10th Psychological
Operations (PSYOPS) Battalion building.
Then what happens?
The distribution posse mobilizes for action. It consists of three
five-member teams working out of three camps: McGovern, Comanche,
and Doboj?. Usually, four PSYOPS soldiers and one translator make
up a team, and Multi-National Division (North) is divided into
sections so that most of the territory is covered.
Sgt. Tom Niemira, deployed from the 307th PSY OPS Company in St.
Louis, Montana, USA, is part of a Mirko distribution team that
works out of Camp McGovern. "We pick them [the magazines]
up from Eagle Base - maybe 10,000 copies - and haul them to McGovern."
Route planning is the next step. Making a circuit of all the towns
in the sector takes the team three to four weeks. "We figure
out where we're going and what is the predominant ethnicity in
the town," Niemira says. That determines whether the team
should take the Latin or Cyrillic edition.
From the base camp, the team deploys four or five days a week,
visiting schools, parks, town squares, any place where young people
congregate, to distribute the publication. Libraries, stores,
and youth centres will sometimes allow the team to leave a stack
of Mirko for customers to pick up.
"We try to visit schools, especially during the shift change
between the morning and afternoon sessions. We target as many
children as possible," he says - and adults as well. Mirko
is "flashy and colorful," he says. "If you can
get it into somebody's hands, they'll look through it."
And maybe the target audience will get the message, too. "I
especially like dealing with the young kids," Niemira says.
Sgt. Ian Courter, also deployed from the 307th, is part of the
Comanche team, and he also finds the work satisfying.
"It's a chance to interact with the children," he says.
"They get a chance to see us not as soldiers but as people."
The soldiers get to know some of the young people in town. "They
ask us questions about the music we like. Our families. They'll
see that, in many ways, we're just like them."
And the young people, he believes, are particularly receptive
to the message of tolerance. "The kids specifically ask for
Mirko - for new issues," he says. The magazine is appealing
for a variety of reasons; the content is contemporary and cool,
and best of all, Courter says, "it's free."
Related article: MIRKO,
Related link: SFOR