Army Wages iPod Warfare in BaghdadBy Nathan Hodge, December 16, 2008 | 10:41:59 AM
Wired News Bloghttp://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/12/armys-ultimate.html#more
BAGHDAD, IRAQ -- During a humanitarian aid distribution in Baghdad's Sadr City, Staff Sgt. Kent Crandall brought along a nifty iPod accessory: an Army psychological operations loudspeaker. Crandall had loaded the iPod with Iraqi pop music, which he cranked during the halal food handout in this war-torn neighborhood.
This is only one of the tools in the psychological operations bottomnal here. Maj. Byron Sarchet, a PsyOps operations officer with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, told me about a second set-up that uses his favorite method: microbroadcasting.
Radio geeks would be familiar with the tools: a 100 Watt Harris AM/FM "radio in a box" transmitter coupled with a Marantz rack-mountable portable CD/cassette player. The PsyOps team loaded up a laptop with contemporary Iraqi and Arabic pop music and started broadcasting on a local frequency, 93.9 FM.
The transmitter is designed for use by emergency responders. It has a small range -- Sarchet estimated it had a reach of only a few kilometers -- but in a densely populated area like Sadr City, it can reach a large audience.
According to Sarchet, the whole thing was a "quick fix." He wanted to broadcast a pro-coalition message during heavy fighting in the city. So he liberated the radio transmitter from a State Department embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (e-PRT), put the radio on the roof of a building, and started broadcasting.
"I stole that radio from e-PRT," he said. "It was in their office and they weren't using it, and I said, 'I gotta have it – I'm taking it.' We're going to broadcast into Sadr City on it."
The programming is mostly pop music, interlaced with coalition messages and numbers for an anonymous tips line. Sarchet said the music was a counter to religious extremism of the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) militia, which had cracked down on the sale of pop music as part of a puritanical campaign.
Radio 93.9 is still broadcasting in Sadr City, but the propaganda propaganda is not over. You can still see Sadrist flyers up in the city, and some graffiti is starting to reappear on the walls. "JAM slogans are popping up again," Sarchet said.Photo: Nathan Hodge