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Special unit at Fort Bragg has unique mission training foreign military

Sep 14, 2009

By Eve Meinhardt, Paraglide

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Soldiers entering the U.S. Army receive training throughout their careers on common tasks like first aid and basic marksmanship; advanced skills like airborne and air assault operations; military occupational specialty specific job skills; and even courses on how to be a better leader. Other countries are not as lucky to have the years of accumulated knowledge and the extensive training opportunities of the U.S. military.

The U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization on Fort Bragg was established in 1974 to assist foreign countries by deploying security assistance teams to support foreign military training.

SATMO is a Training and Doctrine Command organization that falls under the JFK Special Warfare Center and School. According to Mark Moen, the SATMO deputy director, the unit currently has 34 full time Soldiers and civilians working there, none of whom are assigned to Fort Bragg.

The unit is entirely self-sufficient, handling all of the personnel issues that any of the Soldiers assigned to the unit may have.

"We're a one-stop shop, able to take care of any Soldier's needs," said Moen. "Our staff is able to take care of any need, from human resources to financial. We even have people who determine the necessary budget for each mission."

SATMO handles a lot of missions. In the six geographic commands, the unit has 27 teams currently deployed or on temporary duty assignments, totaling 219 personnel serving in 24 countries.

Moen said this number stays fairly constant, occasionally going up to 30 teams, but rarely dropping below 20.

He said current military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have had little effect on SATMO's mission.

"(Having U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan) doesn't change the mission - it may change the focus, but it doesn't change the mission," said Moen. "Depending on the country and their involvement in world affairs, the training of foreign forces may focus on something different, like EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) training or brigade and battalion staff planning training and pre-deployment procedures."

A Soldier meeting MOS, branch and sometimes even rank specific mission criteria fills each assignment. If the foreign country is seeking assistance with a specific helicopter, the assigned team member will be a chief warrant officer familiar with that equipment. If the mission is concerning counter-narcotics operations in Colombia, the SATMO representative will have experience in that area.

Moen said that one major change in SATMO over the last few years is the increased usage of contractor teams.

"With the current OPTEMPO (operational tempo) of the Army, there are fewer military people available. We use contractor teams to fill the need and maintain our foreign security assistance missions," he said.

All SATMO team members, military and contractors, undergo a five-day orientation course. The course is another one-stop shop where the team in-processes, builds cohesion and attends various training sessions including: force protection, anti-terrorism, defensive driving, vehicle bomb search, counter-surveillance and country orientation briefings.

SATMO manages all aspects of the deployment from Uniform Code of Military Justice authority to supplying the team with any needs, as well as caring for their Families back home. To accomplish this, SATMO works closely with other military services, the Department of the Army, overseas commands and security assistance elements. Each team has an assigned SATMO team manager familiar with the country they are working in and their mission to help them with any need or question.

"SAT managers serve as the critical link between SATMO and the U.S. Embassy, the Combatant Command and CONUS (continental U.S.) based Security Cooperation agencies," said Maj. Thomas Price, SAT manager for U.S. Africa Command. "In many ways SAT Managers are operations officers; coordinating and synchronizing the operational planning, preparation and implementation of national security cooperation interests."

Moen said one of the things that makes the SATMO team successful is the mix of military and civilians who maintain the daily operations.

"Even the civilians here have a military background. The majority are retirees, but all have some connection to the military," said Moen. "The mix of having military and civilians working so closely in the building is very positive. The civilians provide the continuity and the military keeps the perspective of what is going on in the Army today and the current doctrine."

Moen, who is a retired Special Forces Soldier, has been on Fort Bragg since 1978. He said that he is grateful for the input of the Soldiers working at SATMO because what may have been right when he was in, may no longer be how it's done.

With the extensive training mission of SATMO, Moen said that the most important aspect is working closely with the foreign countries the U.S. assists.

"It's all about building partnerships and cooperating with our foreign partners," he said.

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