Academic journal article Military Review

The Decisive Weapon: A Brigade Combat Team Commander's Perspective on Information Operations

Academic journal article Military Review

The Decisive Weapon: A Brigade Combat Team Commander's Perspective on Information Operations

Article excerpt

This article was solicited from the author by the editor in chief of Military Review subsequent to a briefing the author presented to the Information Operations Symposium II held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 15 December 2005. The text is an edited version of a transcript from that briefing. It includes additional material and clarification of facts and events provided by the author.

DUTY IN IRAQ has a way of debunking myths and countering Ivory Tower theories with hard facts on the ground. I admit that while I was preparing to serve in Iraq as a brigade commander, I was among the skeptics who doubted the value of integrating information operations (IO) into my concept of operations. Most of the officers on my combat team shared my doubts about the relative importance of information operations. Of course, in current Army literature there is a great deal of discussion about IO theory. There is significantly less practical information, however, that details how theory can be effectively translated into practice by tactical units. My purpose in writing this article is to provide commanders the insights I gleaned from my experience.

Soon after taking command of my brigade, I quickly discovered that IO was going to be one of the two most vital tools (along with human intelligence) I would need to be successful in a counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign. COIN operations meant competing daily to favorably influence the perceptions of the Iraqi population in our area of operations (AO). I quickly concluded that, without IO, I could not hope to shape and set conditions for my battalions or my Soldiers to be successful.

It certainly did not take long to discover that the traditional tools in my military kit bag were insufficient to successfully compete in this new operational environment. As a brigade commander, I was somewhat surprised to find myself spending 70 percent of my time working and managing my intelligence and IO systems and a relatively small amount of my time directly involved with the traditional maneuver and fire support activities. This was a paradigm shift for me. The reality I confronted was far different from what I had professionally prepared for over a lifetime of conventional training and experience.


My brigade, the 2d Brigade Combat Team (BCT), was part of the 1st Armored Division. For the first 12 months in Iraq, we were task organized in Baghdad with up to eight battalions, roughly 5,000 strong, all trained for conventional combat. The BCT consisted of two mechanized infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, an armor battalion, a field artillery battalion, an engineer battalion, a support battalion, and a military police battalion. At headquarters were staff enablers such as psychological operations (PSYOP) and civil affairs (CA) detachments. At one point, my task organization also included 12 U.S. Army National Guard or Reserve Component companies.

My brigade's AO covered roughly 400 square kilometers and encompassed 2 of the 9 major districts in Baghdad: Karkh and Karada. In those 2 heavily populated and congested districts lived between 700,000 to a million citizens. The area contained at least 72 mosques and churches.

In the northwest part of our AO, the population was predominantly Sunni. This area also contained a small neighborhood called Kaddamiya, where Saddam Hussein had grown up. Not surprisingly, that community was a bastion of staunchly pro-Baath sentiment and was steadfastly loyal to Saddam. Such demographic factors made that part of our AO particularly volatile and problematic.

In contrast, our area also contained the Karada district, one of the most affluent parts of the city. Three universities are located there, Baghdad University being at the very southeastern tip. Many Western-trained and educated elites live in Karada, and many of Baghdad's banks and headquarters for major businesses are there. The population in this area is characteristically more secular in its views and somewhat more receptive to outside ideas and influence. …

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