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First Security Force Assistance Brigade may deploy in four months

By Gary Sheftick, Army News Service October 12, 2017

WASHINGTON -- The Army has accelerated fielding of its security force assistance brigades. As a result, the first SFAB, which is training now at Fort Benning, Georgia, may deploy as early as February.

Brig. Gen. Brian Mennes, director of Force Management with the Army's G-3/5/7, discussed the importance of the SFABs and their fielding during a Warrior's Corner presentation Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition.

"It's a very important function," Mennes said about the SFAB mission to train partner forces such as the Iraqi and Afghan armies.

The decision to accelerate fielding of SFABs was made this summer by the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley.

NCOs and officers can now volunteer for the second SFAB, which will begin training in a few months, and which may deploy as early as next December, Mennes said.

To fill the SFABs, the Army is looking for high-performance Soldiers with a "propensity to learn," he said. Soldiers must score at least 240 on the Army Physical Fitness Test ,with 80 in each category. They should also be second-time leaders; for instance, an SFAB company commander typically will have already had command time.

The SFABs will consist entirely of officers and NCOs, with no junior enlisted forces, due to the nature of the mission.

"All the Soldiers are volunteers, they are going to be highly vetted; they will approach standards similar to the Ranger Regiment," Milley said during a separate press conference at the AUSA meeting.

The SFAB acceleration is accompanied by a decision to field the best equipment to SFABs, Mennes said. The new units should receive the best weapons and night observation devices, he said, along with state-of-the-art communications equipment.

Mennes said the SFAB units are important for three reasons:

1. They will improve the Army's ability to partner with other nations.

2. They will save the combat power of deploying brigade combat teams, which until now had to provide infantry and armor companies to train Iraqi and Afghan units.

3. And they will provide an option for the Army to rapidly grow BCTs.

SFABs will be staffed originally with about 500 officers and NCOs, but have the ability to expand up to 4,000 in time of war. They could be filled with young Soldiers fresh out of training who would fall in on the senior staff already there. The SFAB would then become a regular infantry or armor brigade.

A new school was stood up at Fort Benning earlier this year to train the SFAB staff members. The Military Advisor Training Academy offers unique training to the NCOs and officers, Mennes said. They learn about the social aspects and culture of the partner nations they will train, he explained, and how to work with interpreters. They also learn "the art of negotiation," he said.

SFABs "are not Special Forces," Mennes stressed, but said they do receive some comparable training.

These new units are a great opportunity for young officers and NCOs to expand their experience, he said. He recently talked with a company commander who returned from Mosul, Iraq, earlier this year and said the captain couldn't speak more highly of the experience he gained training the Iraqi troops.

Eventually the Army will have five active SFABs, with two serving in the Middle East, one in the Pacific, one in Africa and another possibly in Europe, Mennes said. An additional SFAB is planned for the Army National Guard.

SFABs will train, advise, assist, enable and accompany U.S. partner militaries, Mennes said. "This is a large plank in our national defense strategy," he said.

Milley said he doesn't expect that mission to go away any time soon.

"We are training, advising, and assisting indigenous armies all over the world," he said, "and I expect that will increase and not decrease."

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