Minding the matter

Sgt. Kelly Whitteaker
First published in
SFOR Informer#145, August 15, 2002

A stereotypical image of Psychological Operations, more commonly known as PSYOPS, often times conjures up figures in black clothing skulking around and hiding in the dark. Realistically however, the purpose behind PSYOPS is to help a theatre commander guide the host nation he is working in toward a goal - a goal for the common good.

Camp Butmir - You may wonder what exactly PSYOPS does for SFOR and the Balkan region. According to Maj. Tripp Narrow, U.S. Army, SFOR PSYOPS media director, their mission is an all encompassing one for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
"It is creating messages to change behaviour," said Narrow, "whether it is turning in weapons, or educating the public on tolerance, it is a way to influence behaviour to promote a safe environment."
Changing attitudes
From posters to stickers to video clips, the people working in PSYOPS stay busy promoting a number of campaigns to educate the local population on a variety of issues.
"PSYOPS is basically marketing for the army to foreign countries," Narrow explained. "We're creating messages to try and change the attitude and behaviour of people from other countries."
Regarding the SFOR mission Narrow explained that the marketing is done for NATO. Two other American soldiers work in PYSOPS at Butmir. All are U.S. Army trained, but their mission is to support NATO in BiH.
Campaigns promoted by PSYOPS are geared toward helping the people of BiH recover from the war and are as varied as the local culture.
"We try to get people to turn weapons in that are leftover from the war, like here in Bosnia," said Narrow. "We also do mine awareness to inform the people and children of the country to try and educate them - make them aware, so they change their behaviour, so when they go to certain places they don't step on a land mine."
The campaigns are a tool designed to support the theatre commander. Instead of gaining monetary profits, this marketing agency's profits are gained with an increase in peace and humanity within the local region.
"It's operationally tied to what the commander wants to get the population to do," said Maj. Douglas Jordan, U.S. Army, SFOR PSYOPS operations officer.
"They have something they want the population to do, like Maj. Narrow said, we're a marketing agency that conveys that message. Our sales -- you can measure how many people have turned in weapons, or how many less people have stepped on a mine -- that is our sales."
Changing learned behaviours and attitudes can present a challenge. However, thanks to the creative talents of the hard working staff within the PSYOPS organisation the message is being sent throughout BiH loud and clear.
... worth a thousand words
Looks are deceiving. On the outside, the PYSOPS section at Camp Butmir has the appearance of any other utilitarian building. It's functional and has a purpose in the grand scheme of SFOR. But once inside, your eyes and ears are treated to a number of posters, stickers and videos as well as the broadcast booth for radio station MIR that is produced by SFOR.
Both civilian and military personnel work together creating original ideas to help promote a positive attitude in BiH.
Illustrator Staff Sgt. Dario Stohlmeier, German Army, said working for SFOR and PSYOPS has been a positive experience.
"It's good work," he says as he sits before a poster he helped design. The poster shows two penguins standing together and will be displayed at the upcoming Sarajevo Film Festival.
The penguins are the main characters of a tolerance animation clip geared toward children that will be shown during the children's portion of the festival. The clip was completely produced by the PSYOPS graphics department.
"I'm also PYSOPS in Germany," said Stohlmeier, "The teamwork with other nations is good."
Working for a common good is the mission behind PSYOPS as they help a war torn country on the road to recovery and reform by attempting to change debilitating attitudes into positive ones.

Related link: SFOR at Work

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A poster produced by PSYOPS at Camp Butmir urges people to turn in illegal weapons.


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This poster illustrates that all war criminals are the same, there is no discriminating.


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Photo: Sgt. Kelly Whitteaker

Staff Sgt. Dario Stohlmeier, an illustrator with the German Army, displays a PSYOPS poster promoting tolerance that he helped design.