The MOD announced yesterday that the secretive 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group (15 POG) has been awarded the Firmin Sword of Peace in recognition of its work in Afghanistan. The award is given to "the unit or establishment of each Service judged to have made the most valuable contribution to humanitarian activities by establishing good and friendly relations with the inhabitants of any community at home or overseas".
Based at the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre at Chicksands near Bedford, 15 POG is a Tri-Service unit under Army command, subordinate to 1 Military Intelligence Brigade, Theatre Troops and LAND. Its members are made up of 37 regulars and 28 reservists from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army combat and combat support arms, Royal Air Force and RAF Regiment. More here.
Although it has existed in various forms since the Second World War, in its present form 15 POG attained initial Operating Capability only in 2007, when it was
supplied with new multi-media equipment supplied through MOD DEC ISTAR
Project DRUMGRANGE. These comprise mobile AM and FM commercial radio
broadcast systems, TV editing suites and large-volume print production
units, together with antennæ, power generators and various other
In a little-reported aspect of the war in Afghanistan, a small team from 15 POG has been continuously deployed to Helmand for six years. "Working predominantly with the Afghan civilian population it has sought to inform, reassure, educate and through the promotion of free and unbiased discussion persuade Afghans that their futures are best served not with the Taliban, nor with ISAF, but with themselves and their elected government", says the MOD.
In addition, "The unit runs a network of radio stations employing local Afghan's as DJs, broadcasting music, poetry, debate programmes and even a Helmandi soap opera, as well as producing graphical posters and leaflets to communicate in an area where literacy rates are only around 20%."
They also run information campaigns to prevent children picking up spent ordnance they find, disseminating information from farming and veterinary workshops using their radio stations, and promoting debate on political issues of the day.
Speaking about the award, the Commanding Officer of 15 POG, Commander Steve Tatham Royal Navy, said:
"We are delighted that our work is being recognised by this award. We are proud of our achievements helping foster better relations with the Afghans and building a sense of community and nationality, and of our support Task Force Helmand's wider aims.
"The levels of literacy and technology in Helmand present challenges for us, but there is an appetite for information, education and debate that our work helps to satisfy. It is heartening to see how our work can directly improve people's lives, whether helping them participate in elections, improve their farming and livelihood, or promoting basic healthcare."
In case you are wondering about the deer's head emblem: "The Group adopted the stag's head formation sign in recognition of the sterling work carried out by the Indian Field Broadcast Units that supported the Chindit campaign against the Japanese in South East Asia. The deer’s antlers represent the combat support function of PSYOPS and the antennae associated with radio, a major means of disseminating PSYOPS messages."