On 18 June 1994, in order to help restore the democratically elected government in Haiti and to deter the the mass exodus of Haitians migrants leaving Haiti in unsafe, overcrowded boats, a Military Information Support Team (MIST) was established in Washington D.C. The goal of the MIST was to create an informational environment in support of US objectives to restore democracy to Haiti, to allow President Aristide to present a message of reconciliation to his constituents and to outline plans for his return to power. The MIST was composed of soldiers from the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) and Creole speaking civilian linguists.
Within hours of the MIST establishment, products were being developed to help stem the flow of Haitian migrants to the United states. These products which included loudspeaker broadcasts from U.S. Coast guard ships and messages delivered by U.S. envoys had an immediate impact in in arresting the flow of Haitian migrants. The initial messages stressed the inherent danger of the boat migrations due to the overcrowded conditions, unsafe boats and inclement weather conditions.
Radio messages were broadcast which informed the Haitians that boat loads of migrants picked up at sea would no longer be able to seek asylum in the United States, but rather be taken to refugee camps outside the United States. Furthermore, the Haitian people were told that the only way to qualify for asylum would be applying to the Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS) offices in Haiti.
These radio messages were broadcast by the 193rd Special Operations Group's (SOG) Command Solo EC-130 aircraft. To help ensure that the radio messages would get to the target audience, 10,000 radios were air dropped into Haiti, substantially increasing the listening audience. Messages from president Aristide were broadcast daily on three FM radio channels along with discussions by a panel of Haitian political experts. The purpose of these broadcasts were to educate the Haitian people on the basic theories and concepts of democracy and what were the benefits they could expect with the restoration of a democracy in Haiti. To further attract a listening audience and to reinforce the credibility of the information, the radio broadcasts also included current news stories, commentaries by popular local figures and selected popular Haitian music.
As the time came closer for US Forces to arrive on Haiti, PSYOP soldiers broadcasted messages of instructions to help calm the native inhabitants. Later Tactical PSYOP Teams were inserted by helicopter before the arrival of the ground forces began to reduce interference by either the Haitian military or civilian population.
A Joint Psychological Operations Task Force (JPOTF) was formed with the subsequent arrival of Army and Marine forces into Haiti. The JPOTF was made up of the Headquarters, 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), the 1st Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne), the battalion with regional responsibility, the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne), the tactical battalion, the PSYOP Dissemination Battalion, reserve members from the 2nd Psychological Operations Group, and linguists from all four branches of service.
The mission of the Joint PSYOP Task Force was to facilitate civil order and rescue Haitian-to Haitian violence. To accomplish this, president Aristide's messages of peace and reconciliation were used along with print and other broadcast messages to discourage acts of revenge and/or retribution. Task force members knew only too well from their experiences in Somalia in 1992 the importance of not only winning over the support of the people but advocating for disarmament of all parties concerned. Therefore this campaign also addressed a disarming program which would be conducted both by seizing and voluntary turn-ins of weapons. This program proved to be a real success as demonstrated by the thousands of weapons which were turned over, the few instances of Haitian-on-Haitian violence, the low number of acts of retribution by Aristide's supporters and the warm reception and support given to the U.S. Forces when they arrived in country.
Another mission of the POTF was to win over the hearts and minds of the Haitian population by publicizing the Humanitarian Relief efforts which were underway in their country. These efforts were publicized through radio and loudspeaker broadcasts. Due to Haiti's low literacy rates, other means of disseminating messages were also used. In addition to leaflets, messages were put on button pins, soccer balls, t-shirts, street banners and billboards.
On 15 October, 1994, President Aristide returned to Haiti peacefully. Haitian popular opinion which once regarded U.S. Forces with guarded optimism, now thanks to the assistance of PSYOP, considered the American soldiers and Multi-National Forces as saviors of their country who had helped establish the foundations for the rebirth of democracy in Haiti.
Perhaps the JPOTF's greatest test was the development of a campaign to generate public trust and confidence in the interim Public Security Force (IPSF) which was to replace the notorious Haitian Police force. This effort was not made an easier when it was learned that many members of the old police force had been incorporated into the new organization. The POTF developed a campaign that stressed to the population that tall members of the new Interim Public Security Force had been carefully screened for former atrocities and that the force had undergone detailed training on proper police procedures and respect for human rights. Furthermore, it was pointed out that the new security force would patrol under the Multi-National Forces supervision.
Subsequently, the Multi-National Forces were replaced by a United Nations Missions in Haiti (UNMIH) force. This transition would include the downsizing of the total forces to approximately 6000 troops. Elements from the 4th PSYOP Group (Airborne) and the reserve 2nd PSYOP Group, remained with the UN peace keeping forces to ensure that the democratically elected government and the Haitian people would continue to work together so that their country would once again flourish.
For another opinion of PSYOP in Haiti, check out the Army Times article dated 3/27/95, subject: Haitian Mission Is Smoothed By Psyops Getting Out The Word, By Katherine McIntire Peters.