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Information operations enhance Emerald Warrior

  • Published
  • By Ashley M. Wright
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
Hindsight is 20/20, but as today's battles are tweeted and bombing campaigns streamed live, special operators must be aware of their operating environment even before the first shots are fired.

With a commitment to train how they fight, Emerald Warrior planners implemented both Information Operations (IO) and cyber operations into the 2012 exercise scenario.
"Information Operations has been around forever," said Colonel Bruce Taylor, the Exercise Director for Emerald Warrior. "[It is] not just what happens, but how it is perceived."

Emerald Warrior is an annual five to six-week joint/combined tactical exercise sponsored by U.S. Special Operations Command to provide realistic training opportunities to conventional, interagency, partner nation, and special operations forces. This year, more than 1,900 personnel participated in the exercise which concluded March 9.

A growing perspective is the more we plan how to affect an adversary, the more effective we will be. IO incorporates America's specialized forces actions into a broader picture. It considers cascading effects and is employed throughout the planning and execution of operations.

"Information Operations is the integration of any number of information-related capabilities in order to affect adversary and neutral populations as well," said Captain Joseph Chapman, AFSOC Military Information Support Operations program manager and the IO/cyber lead planner for Emerald Warrior.

For an example of cascading effects, the captain explained, if a bomb is dropped, the primary effect is something blows up. Second and third order effects focus on factors such as who was in the explosion, who was killed, will their neutral family or neighbors seek revenge now or will the enemy be forced to rethink their latest strategy.

As people think more in this mindset, they foster an appreciation for the importance of interactions and communicating effectively, Chapman said.

"Our goal in implementing information operations and cyber throughout Emerald Warrior has been just to try and make an operating environment realistic to the scenario," Chapman said. "We're trying to make the consequences of our actions more believable."
These efforts included placing an IO planner in the exercise operations center and producing simulated news articles.

"As we integrate IO and cyber in this exercise, we are taking a crawl, walk, run approach," Chapman said. "This year we are operating at a fast crawl, but we will advance our efforts over future iterations of Emerald Warrior."

The cyber portion focused primarily on network defense and incident response.
The significance of the cyber domain is expanding in warfare, Chapman said. Although there are many boots on the ground, those forces still have a heavy reliance on our networks and the contributions of cyber capabilities.

"A lot of our activities have their backbone in the cyber domain," the captain said. "Our communications, our ability to perform our operations are heavily reliant on cyberspace. So, it is important for the folks playing in the exercise to have that awareness of the domain and its' vulnerabilities."

Overall, the integration of IO and cyber provided special operators a taste of what they can expect in a real world situation.

"Information Operations in the real world can mean the difference between success and failure," Taylor said.

Just as in a real world situation, the success of the first iteration of IO and cyber for Emerald Warrior will be judged over time.

"The only way to gauge success is through time," Taylor said, "because changing attitudes is a slow process."