Unraveling the Mysteries of Psywar

A Fort Bragg-trained psyops soldier hands out leaflets in Somalia, circa 1993. Image from the National Archives.

On April 10, 1952, the United States Army moved the Psychological Warfare Center and School from Fort Riley, Kansas, to Fort Bragg, where it remains to this day.

The term “psychological warfare” originated during World War II, although the practice has been around since human beings first engaged in conflict with each other. Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan and other historic military leaders often spread exaggerated rumors of their own armies’ prowess and savagery to intimidate enemies.

Any dissemination of propaganda to targeted enemy groups with the intention of sapping their morale and willingness to fight could be considered psychological warfare.

As communications grew more sophisticated, soldiers needed superior skills to employ effective psychological warfare. To accommodate this increasing complexity, the training program at Fort Bragg has evolved into its current form, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (JFKSWCS).

JFKSWCS chooses elite recruits for advanced, intense education in unconventional special operations techniques and tactical skills that can shape foreign political milieu. Soldiers are trained in world languages, international cultural norms and methods for using information to influence the activities of governments and individuals.