British Army 77th Brigade page from Army website (Crown Copyright 2017)

Special Mention for the 77th Brigade

General Carter Praises British Army’s Information Warfare Capability

The British Army’s Chief of the General Staff has put it on record that he is ‘very impressed’ with the talent enlisted in the 77th Brigade.

Last week, General Sir Nick Carter outlined his views on what constitutes the greatest threat to British security during a talk at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London. Speaking about the need to build an effective Army Reserve, General Carter highlighted the success of one mixed Regular and Reserve unit :

I’ve been very impressed with the talent that’s come forward to join the Army Reserve, particularly on what we call ‘Group B’ terms of service. In our 77 Brigade, which I shall come back to, we have got some remarkable talent when it comes to social media, production design, and indeed Arabic poetry. Those sorts of skills we can’t afford to retain in the Regular component but they are the means of us delivering capability in a much more imaginative way than we might have been able to do in the past.

Based at Denison Barracks, Hermitage, the 77th Brigade was established in 2015 as part of Army 2020 by re-naming the Security Assistance Group, which was itself a newly created amalgamation of several existing British Army formations: the Media Operations Group, 15 Psychological Operations Group, Security Capacity Building Team, and the Military Stabilization and Support Group. On the British Army’s new website the Brigade is described as being about ‘information and outreach’, read ‘unconventional warfare’, especially information warfare. For General Carter it is all about the battle for the narrative.

During his speech he highlighted the changing nature of today’s battlefield: unconventional, unrestricted, asymmetric and information-centric:

We also, though, need to continue to improve our ability to fight on this new battlefield, and I think it’s important that we build on the excellent foundation we’ve created for Information Warfare through our 77 Brigade which is now giving us the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level.

General Carter found an observation by David Patrikarakos, author of War in 140 Characters, particularly apt:

I was caught up in two wars: one fought on the ground with tanks and artillery, and an information war fought largely, though not exclusively, through social media. And counter intuitively, it mattered more who won the war of words and narratives than who had the most potent weaponry.

Patrikarakos gave General Carter another quote: “social media is throwing up digital supermen: hyper-connected and hyper-empowered online individuals,” leading him to add “I’d like a few of those in 77 Brigade, please.”

After the departure of the Brigade’s founder Brigadier Alastair Aitken, CBE, last year, 77th Brigade is now led by Brigadier Chris Bell, OBE, a young and dynamic officer from the Scots Guards with the ability and motivation to deliver the results General Carter is looking for.

Sources: MOD with additional reporting.

Image: 77th Brigade webpage on the new British Army website (Crown Copyright, 2017).