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The US military wants to recruit more psychological warfare ‘nerds’

  • Psychological warfare, or PsyOps, aims to influence public opinion and wage a war of words.
  • PsyOps missions range from dropping leaflets to deceiving the enemy and shaping opinion on foreign soil.
  • The US Army, struggling to fill the ranks of its PsyOps units, has released a haunting recruiting video.

In late 2021, Army Special Operations Command leaders and Special Forces recruiters had a problem: They needed more recruits for their psychological operations groups.

Experts in persuasion and influence, psychological warfare or PsyOp, soldiers do not often fit the stereotypical mold of an army recruit. These individuals tend to live and think outside the norm, and recruiting must address this through non-traditional means.

In May 2022, recruiters released their first eerie recruiting video: “Ghost in the machine: Psywar.” Last week, they released their second: “Ghost in the machine 2”.

“Ghosts in the Machine 2” takes the viewer on a journey of introspection. Quotes, spoken and on screen, music, images and ideas are superimposed to create tension and attract the viewer.

While the first video focuses on psychological warfare and shadows, “Ghosts in the Machine 2” emphasizes that words and ideas can be powerful weapons.

The final scene of the second video displays the text “See you at Selection” and provides viewers with the web address of the U.S. Army Special Operations recruiting website (GoArmySOF.com).

“We’re all nerds, that’s for sure.”

The videos are designed to spark curiosity about the specific type of recruit they are looking for.

“We’re all nerds, that’s for sure,” the Army major who created the ad and a member of the 8th Psychological Operations Group based at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, told The Associated Press. “But we’re all nerds in different ways.”

Usually those who are drawn to this work are “planners,” he said. “They are writers, they are great thinkers. They are people who have ideas.”

He added that they are often creative – artists and illustrators – but others are technology experts who can bring ideas to life in online messaging.

Trying to make potential recruits understand PsyOps

In March, a report found that due to burnout issues among psychological operations soldiers, units were unable to fight both China and Russia in information warfare.

But part of the recruiting problem is that people who might be good candidates don’t fully understand what PsyOps is or what it entails.


This image from a video released by the U.S. Army shows a frame from a haunting new video, released in May 2024, in the military's latest effort to lure soldiers into some of its most secretive units.

This image from a video released by the U.S. Army shows a frame from a haunting new video, released in May 2024, in the military’s latest effort to lure soldiers into some of its most secretive units.

US Army via Getty



The video aims to recruit future PsyOps soldiers and show candidates what their job will entail.

“’Ghost in the Machine’ tells you what psychological operations is and shows it to you, without telling you in words,” Lt. Col. Steve Crowe, commander of the Special Forces Recruiting Battalion, told AP.

“You watch the video and you say, OK, this is how I’m going to influence and change behavior.”

Recruiters told AP that about six months after the first video was released, 51 percent of soldiers who applied for the PsyOps mission and participated in the assessment and selection course said the video was influential average to high on their decision to apply for the position. .

The United States has been using PsyOps for years

One of the most famous psychological operations took place during World War II. The American ghost army deceived the Germans using inflatable tanks, radio deception, disguises and impersonations.


This photo provided by the Ghost Army Legacy Project shows inflatable tanks in March 1945.

This photo provided by the Ghost Army Legacy Project shows inflatable tanks in March 1945.

National Archives/Ghost Army Legacy Project via AP



In what was known as Operation Viersen, they deployed inflatables, sound trucks and fake headquarters to divert German forces from the actual Rhine crossing point.

PsyOps soldiers have more recently advised Ukrainian troops in their attempts to counter Russian disinformation campaigns since the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

After the Russian invasion in 2022, Ukrainian forces used various tactics to convince Russian soldiers to surrender. Leaflets and social media posts told Russian troops how and where they could go.

businessinsider

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