Psychological Operations’ branch colors, Bottle Green and Silver Gray, are employed in the hatband of the service cap worn with the Army Service Uniform. Bottle-Green braid is also used on the sleeves of Army Service Uniforms, the lapel of the Blue Mess Dress jacket, the lining of the optional-purchase blue cape.
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It’s somewhat ironic that the Army’s most famous employment of “psychological operations”—the playing of loud rock ‘n’ roll music to fray the nerves of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega as he hid inside the Vatican Embassy in Panama City—was not even an intentional part of the extensive psychological operations that were in fact being used during Operation Just Cause.

Three-and-a-half hours after the U.S. launched its invasion of Panama in the early morning of December 20, 1989, Southcom Network (SCN) Radio began broadcasting. The initial segments consisted primarily of ABC and CNN news reports, as well as audio of SCN TV reports (which were airing on CNN). Like a regular radio station, SCN had a number for listeners to call with requests, but during the first day of the invasion its announcers urged callers to refrain for using the phone lines so they would be for emergency calls.

The network began taking song requests on December 21. According to the after-action report, “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n’ Roses was in extremely high demand because of the locale (“Jungle Love” by Steve Miller was also requested), while the Special Forces Combat Divers Team asked to hear several songs by The Doors (“People Are Strange,” “Strange Day,” and “The End”).

On December 24, Manuel Noriega fled into the Papal Nunciature, or Vatican Embassy, to avoid capture by American forces. The next day SCN broadcast Christmas music, and when regular programming resumed on the 26th the requests remained similar to what had been received before the holiday. But on the 27th, SCN Radio received a call from Fort Bragg informing it that PSYOPs teams had set up loudspeakers outside the Nunciature in an attempt to “blast him out” (the announcers were actually already aware of the situation).

Although the station had already received a few requests for songs with “musical messages” for Noriega in either the title or lyrics, this picked up dramatically following TV coverage of the situation outside the embassy. The media classified it as a psychological operation, with the Washington Post News Service writing that the troops outside the embassy were “continuing to wage psychological warfare against Noriega by blaring rock music over loudspeakers, while a Newsday writer called it “the most ridiculous psychological operation in U.S. history.”

In reality, the musical siege had been originally launched by General Maxwell Thurman as a way to prevent reporters armed with parabolic microphones from eavesdropping on conversations between Vatican officials and Army officers. It was only after the fact that the idea of it being used as a psychological weapon was announced by a Psychological Operations officer—an idea that spread like wildfire. On December 28th, General Colin Powell asked for an explanation of the music, and Thurman told him about his eavesdropping concerns—but by this time he, too, was convinced the music was taking its toll on Noriega and would speed his surrender.

But Powell, spurred on by President George H. W. Bush’s view of the tactic as “irritating and petty,” was having none of it. He order the NSA to establish a different type barrier to prevent audio eavesdropping, and on the 29th the “rock music assault” came to an end.

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