Information Warfare: Training Made Painless

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September 12, 2019: The U.S. Army is resorting to an increasingly popular, and low tech, method for helping troops learn necessary information. The army is preparing decks of cards featuring information on foreign weapons systems soldiers might encounter in a future war. The first deck covers Iranian weapons, with a North Korean one to follow. This is actually an old idea, first used during the American Civil War (1861-5) and then again during World War II (1939-45). The 1943 deck was to help troops identify enemy aircraft. More recently there were card decks featuring data on Russian and Chinese weapons.

Before the current Iran and North Korea decks the most famous use of this technique was in 2003, when the U.S. military needed to get information to their troops in Iraq about the dozens of senior Iraq government and military officials sought as war criminals. Brainstorming led to the creation of a special deck of playing cards with the names, pictures and title of the 55 (52 suit cards plus jokers) most wanted. Time was of the essence because it was believed most of these men were still in Iraq, but only until they could escape to Syria. The Department of Defense posted a PDF file of the card artwork before the first official printing of the cards and soon there were many commercial editions of the cards using those PDFs. Many of the commercial printings went to civilian collectors but by the end year troops were getting those and the government manufactured deck. The "personality identification playing cards", as they were officially known, worked. Troops spent a lot of time playing card games when off-duty and staring at these pictures made it easier for troops to remember who was wanted. Currently, all but five of the Iraqis identified in the deck have been captured, killed or confirmed as dying of natural causes.

This approach to imparting information has become popular for all sorts of situations, usually educational. Despite the growing popularity of video games, a lot of people still use a deck of cards to pass the time.

 


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