Small Wars Journal

Fort Benning to Stand Up Security Force Brigades, Training Academy

Fort Benning to Stand Up Security Force Brigades, Training Academy by Charlsy Panzino, Army Times

The first of six planned security force brigades will activate in October at Fort Benning, Georgia, the Army announced on Thursday.

The Security Force Assistance Brigades are the Army’s first permanent units that will conduct security cooperation activities and allow quick response to combatant commander requirements, an Army spokesperson told Army Times in an email.

“Establishing a proponent for the new structure unifies all related force development activities under a single command to best enable the Army to grow and evolve the organization,” the spokesperson said.

The Security Force Assistance Brigades will enhance the Army’s readiness by reducing demand for existing brigade combat teams, which will allow BCTs to perform full-spectrum operations instead.

In January, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Defense News, a sister publication of Military Times, that advise-and-assist brigades are one way to regenerate the force as its end strength shrinks but threats continue.

The Army has conducted advise-and-assist operations for years, but in the past, the service would break apart brigades to meet those missions...

Read on.


I have heard of these units referred to as "Vanguard Brigades" (though I didn't know a division or corps HQ would be built as well). Has anyone seen an organizational diagram for this many "battalions", advisor teams, etc...? Additionally, does anyone know if the 162d BDE (advisor academy) out of FT Polk will serve as the MATA unit/ schoolhouse & will move to FT Benning as a result of this?

I'm also curious as to whether any consideration has been given to consolidating the Security Assistance Training Management Office (SATMO) at FT Bragg with this new MATA organization (SATMO prepares folks serving as advisors in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Columbia among others). This would allow one central organization to serve as the advisor training hub for conventional forces, though one side would focus on "military advising" enabling access to a particular country/ region while the other side focuses on "combat advising" which I view as building & applying combat capability and "working yourself out of a job".

My argument below possibly stated another way:

The requirements of modernity and the threat modernity poses to the conservative elements of various populations -- to wit: those who understandably cling to traditional ways of life, traditional ways of governance and traditional values, attitudes and beliefs -- these would seem to be major causative factors in both the internal and the external conflicts of states, societies and civilizations since time immemorial.

Two examples from today:

a. Afghanistan: " ...from at least King Zahir Shah's (Afghanistan's first "modernizer?") reign, has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional." (Item in parenthesis here is mine.)

b. The United States: "This situation represents the latest phase of the long historical conflicts between two Americas -- that is, liberal internationalism of the urban establishment and popular isolationism in predominantly rural white communities."…

(Such things as globalism/globalization/the global economy today -- and the "change" demands of same -- taking an intolerable toll on these, and numerous other, states, societies and civilizations of the world?)

Post-9/11, "nation-building," and such things as "security force assistance" and "phase zero operations" undertaken in "nation-building's" name (all coming under the heading of a "preemptive national security strategy?"); these were determined to be the manner that we would deal with the rejection of generally "Western" modernity by so-called weak and/or failing states, and with the threats (for example terrorism) that emanated from these such entities.

Post-the recent Brexit, however, and with the election of President Trump here at home, the U.S./the West now appears to have -- itself -- rejected both (a) further internal modernization and (b) further external modernization (to wit: "nation-building") as well. (Candidate Trump ran on an anti-"nation-building" platform. Yes?)

Given that both "security force assistance" and "phase zero operations" appear have their origins and basis within the concept of "nation-building" ("nation-building" earlier being seen as the cure to problems such as terrorism emanating from "weak and failed" [i.e., non-modernized] states),

Then does this not suggest that these two approaches (security force assistance and phase zero operations) will now be eliminated;

This, given that the matter upon which these such approaches were founded and sustained (to wit: "nation-building"), this now seems to have been soundly rejected by the American people, by the peoples of other nations of the West as well, and by their elected national leaders?

As long as they give it a name as cool sounding as it is uncontroversial, like "School of the Americas". Or something.

Bill C.

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 12:11pm


Historically, the U.S. military’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) have had primary responsibility for training, advising, and assisting foreign military forces. Today, although this mission has not been completely relegated to conventional forces, the National Security Strategies of the current and previous administrations direct the U.S. military services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) to organize, train, and equip themselves to carry out these activities on a larger scale with conventional (non-SOF) forces. This responsibility in its broad sense of building the capacity of partner states has been termed “security force assistance” (SFA).

END QUOTE (See "Summary" at the beginning.)

Question: What amazing change would account for virtually ALL of our conventional forces -- in ALL of our military services (and indeed those of our allies also) -- ALL being required to take up the "training, advising, and assisting foreign military forces" role; a role formerly held down by, generally speaking, our (and our allies) SOFs alone?

Potential Answer: (a) The numerous "failed states" as primary threat to the U.S. "problem" thesis and (b) the corresponding worldwide "nation-building" as the necessary "cure"/"solution" thesis based thereon.


Along with its role in the current Afghanistan and Iraq wars, SFA is directly linked to counterterrorism strategy and is key to engaging underdeveloped and undergoverned nations (often referred to as “weak or fragile states”) in a preventive national security strategy.

END QUOTE (Again, see "Summary" at the start.)


In an essay in Foreign Affairs, Obama argued in 2007 that “since extremely poor societies and weak states provide optimal breeding grounds for disease, terrorism, and conflict,” the United States must “invest in building capable, democratic states that can establish healthy and educated communities, develop markets, and generate wealth.” As may be seen below, these ideas have permeated the foreign policy establishment and consequently affected US foreign policy.

END QUOTE… (See bottom of Page 21 and top of Page 22)

Thus, as we can see here:

a. The rationale for Security Force Assistance Brigades,

b. This appears to stem from the "numerous failed states = primary threat to the U.S./the West thus we must do worldwide nation building" (more along modern western lines?) thinking -- of both our Democratic and Republican Parties -- in recent years.


Question No. 1: If the populations of the United States (and, indeed, much of the Western world) -- and by extension their national leadership (for example, our newly elected President Trump) -- if these folks have now soundly rejected this such "failed states = we must do nation building" thinking,

Then will not Security Force Assistance Brigades -- which appear to have been based on such "failed states" = "nation-building requirement" thinking -- now be disbanded/discarded?

This, given that the basis for expanding these operations -- beyond the traditional SOF role and into the conventional forces realm -- this such basis will no longer exist/will now have been soundly rejected?

Question No. 2: Given that corresponding "Phase Zero Operations"/"preventive national security strategy," etc., ideas also appear to have been derived from these such exact -- but now apparently defunct/rejected -- concepts (again, "failed states = nation-building requirement"),

Given this fact, then should we not expect that these such concepts (Phase Zero Operations"/"preventive national security strategy"), likewise and also, will now be discarded?

(The jobs of both our and our allies SOFs -- and indeed our and their conventional forces also -- thus to return to their more traditional roles?)