A common tasking for our teams is to provide media simulation and training support to units preparing to deploy on United Nations peace keeping operations across the world.
A good example of this is the deployment of the Royal Engineers to support United Nations operation in Southern Sudan.
The team will deliver many of the aspects of media simulation that we provide to other units such as realistic experience that mirrors the behaviour of visiting media and embedded media. How to host, brief, supervise and assist the media in these circumstances.
Operations like this where the military personnel are working in an environment that differs considerably from normal operations adds challenges and complexities to their operating environment that the media team need to replicate to provide the most realistic possible training experience.
An example of this is the need for the exercise unit to understand the way peacekeepers are reported on and how the media experience will differ depending on the culture, nationality and ethical standards of the journalists that they will meet. On this exercise, we were able to provide a team that included a journalist who had worked regularly in South Sudan and who had a unique understanding of the culture, the environment and the local media.
When not engaged in the simulation the team lectured the exercising personnel on the media and engagement with journalists.
Our team received extremely positive feedback from the client in this case with the commander of the Engineer Group Col Quare saying: “The team were a key enabler to ensure that the Task Force was sufficiently tested, and thereby in a good place to deploy”.
Crown Media has supported the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) for a number of years. A typical exercise will see us providing an experienced media team to deploy into Kenya to support battlegroups going through intensive and realistic training in the African bush. Our media team take a variety of roles during the exercises including embedding into the battlegroup whilst it is going through highly realistic simulated combat including on occasion the use of live munitions.
Our teams are trained to behave exactly as embedded media with specific guidance on training objectives to achieve to ensure that all aspects of management of embedded journalists are practised by the hosting unit. This includes such things as briefing, integrating the embeds into specific operations, escorting, keeping them safe whilst positioning them where they can capture footage of the operation, negotiating/controlling OPSEC for release of product and finally facilitating their delivery of their product.
When the specific operation ends, the team will then produce news product based on the operation and will edit it so that it reflects their experience of how effectively or otherwise they were hosted. The final product is then played into the After-Action Review (AAR) to feed back to the player audience on how effectively the unit managed the embed hosting and how the output fitted into the wider information picture.
Between exercise phases the team are available to speak to groups from the player audience, deliver media training and give advice on such things as who they have identified within the exercising units as being particularly good at communicating the defence message through the media.
Whilst not their primary role the teams have often captured, edited and delivered non-media product that was urgently required for example for safety related issues.
An interesting aspect of recent exercises has been the experimentation with the delivery of information effects by social media. Where the networks permit it, this allows product such as social media video to be delivered onto the soldier’s phones and laptops whilst they are on the ground in near real time.
Exercise Joint Horizon
Crown Media has provided media simulation and training support for the new Joint Force Command since this specialist organisation was established. We were tasked to support this particular exercise which was going to be focussed on the achievement of operational effects in the non-kinetic domain. In other words, it was intended to test their ability to operate effectively in an environment where the primary activities were based around media, information and humanitarian issues rather than in what the military might describe as war fighting or peace enforcement. This was a specific challenge for the military as for some it was outside their experience and comfort zones.
After a number of planning meetings with the client we designed a simulation structure that worked within the budget available, to fit a particularly complex requirement. The final team structure included our delivering 3 different television outputs including one in Arabic, multiple radio stations, a range of print and web based news outlets and a wide range of social media.
This was particularly complex to deliver due to the wide range of information feeds from other cells that were replicating things such as, UK political, national governments, the UN, NGOs, corporate entities, hostile players etc. This required our close involvement in planning meetings to ensure that our product harmonised correctly with the output of other cells and that we were always available to suggest amendments to serials or completely new serials that kept the information play realistic and maximised the learning effects for the player audience.
The media product and social media feeds were delivered to the player audience using a realistic secured web portal that gave access to all the media and social media content and allowed the player audience to grab and download product for inclusion during their update briefs.
We were also tasked to create social media analytics which reflected the impact that the player actions had on a variety of interested audiences.
Exercise NATO Georgia 2019
Joint Force Training Centre in Bydgoszcz and the Joint Training Evaluation Centre in Tbilisi Georgia contracted Crown Media to support the prestigious Exercise NATO GEORGIA 19.
The key aim of the exercise was to train personnel, improve efficiency and increase interoperability following the first NATO-GEO exercise conducted in 2016. In particular, it was deemed important to help the Georgian Armed Forces get a better understanding of the role media can play during operations.
Crown Media director Steve Gravenor led the team and attended a two-week Mel-Mil script writing workshop in Georgia prior to the exercise itself. He planned the entire media element of the exercise using his previous knowledge of the Cerasia scenario which was being used.
His team comprised a TV presenter, TV reporter, Print/Online Editor, Social Media Editor, and multi-media technical specialist. The team created a comprehensive media environment throughout the exercise itself.
By attending all necessary co-ordination and update briefs, Steve was able to direct his team to target the media appropriately and trigger reactions from the training audience. This involved creating sometimes, for example, news sympathetic to the OPFOR, fake news on Twitter, and articles critical of the operation from media in the troop contributing nations.
This resulted in an increase in information operations activity as the exercise progressed.
Afterwards, Major Peter Chlebko, COTR for the exercise, said: “The Crown Media team integrated effortlessly into the Exercise Planning Team during the planning phase and during the execution to help prepare and deliver a demanding and challenging training event.”
STRATEGIC EXERCISE (STRATEX)
Crown Media have supported the prestigious Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) in London in the delivery of their annual Strategic Exercise since this series of events was first developed many years ago.
STRATEX is a sophisticated diplomatic challenge that places teams in the position of governments who have to manage increasingly complex and escalating overlapping political crises.
Working against the clock, the player teams are pressed to negotiate with other states and entities, draft effective policies and communicate their intent successfully to other nations and the wider public.
A key element in this series of exercises is realistic scrutiny from the broadcast media, print and social media. To achieve this we provide, social media, TV, web and print simulations. We create news and current affairs programmes including running political TV discussion programmes to challenge the player’s ability to articulate their position without being pushed off message, compromising national and international agreements or putting their government into unsustainable positions.
This is an exceptionally well designed political exercise that challenges the members of the player teams in ways that it is not possible to achieve without a range of expert mentors and sophisticated media and social media simulation.
Exercise Joint Warrior
Twice annually Crown Media supports the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) Northwood with the delivery of the major maritime exercise JOINT WARRIOR.
This is a complex exercise that involves ships from across the world, but specifically focussed on the UK, Europe, the USA and Canada. It brings the ships together in task forces from mixed countries and practices them in working together using NATO operating procedures. The exercise scenario varies slightly from event to event but is always complex and includes an increasingly sophisticated information environment which the players in the various task forces have to manage effectively.
We provide a base team that creates web, radio and print news and social media which we deliver through a secured website to a multi-national audience. We also provide up to three teams of embeds. Two of the media teams are embedded with opposing task forces and report realistically on the progress of the military operation. The third team (when deployed) is embedded into the amphibious or air assault (depending on the design of the exercise) landing force.
The embeds have to report realistically on the activities of the various forces, create realistic news product and test their hosts ability to correctly host embedded media. To complicate matters on this exercise the embed teams have to move between different ships and units by sea, by helicopter or by road. Their product is then fed back to the base team and incorporated into our web based secure site.
The exercise for the base team includes creating news, representing public opinion via social media simulation and producing information warfare product from pseudo terrorist groups, propagandists etc. A particular complexity with this exercise is that every ship uses a different communication system and has different standards of internet access mainly by Satellite link.