Small Wars Journal

First Security Force Assistance Brigade May Deploy in Four Months

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 4:18pm

First Security Force Assistance Brigade May Deploy in Four Months

Gary Sheftick - Army News Service

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."



Security Force Assistance: Activities and Instruments of National Power:

Effective use of SFA activities requires a strategic perspective on the development of FSF, including acknowledgment of theater and global objectives. While SFA activities are important for improving the capability and capacity of HN’s security forces and their supporting institutions, for the long term, a USG partnership with an HN government normally benefits as much from the developments spawned by the economic, diplomatic, and informational instruments as from the military.


Focusing on the "strategic perspective" portion of the guidance provided immediately above, should we not consider two critically important matters:

(1) Post-the Old Cold War, the U.S./the West, quite logically it would seem, replaced its previous "containment of communism" strategy with an "advancing market-democracy" one.


Throughout the Cold War, we contained a global threat to market democracies; now we should seek to enlarge their reach, particularly in places of special significance to us.

The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement -- enlargement of the world's free community of market democracies.


(2) The realization, post-the Old Cold War, that while (a) such things "universal western values," the western version of the "end of history" and the "overwhelming appeal of our way of life HAD NOT BECOME MANIFEST, (b) massive resistance to transformation more along modern western lines -- by both state (think Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea) and non-state (for example, the Islamists) actors HAD BECOME MANIFEST.

Conclusion: Based on the above, one can easily understand why:

a. "Force" would now become the U.S./the West's "order of the day;" this, to overcome the resistance of both internal actors (for example, the Islamists) and external actors (think Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea, etc.); all of whose efforts -- together or separately -- would now be focused on thwarting the U.S./the West's such strategic goal (again, advancing market-democracy throughout the world). And understand why, accordingly,

b. A completely new force (Security Force Assistance Brigades) would now be needed; this, to (a) overcome the state and non-state actor "resistance to transformation" noted above and to (b) assist the other instruments of U.S./Western power and persuasion (for example our private sector and our "WOG") -- and our friendly host-nation governments -- achieve the transformations that we desire.

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

If the U.S. Army Green Berets were never conceived of and/or organized to:

a. Achieve this such objective (advance market-democracy throughout the world), nor to

b. Develop, throughout the world, the military forces of other countries needed to see such a mission through (this, in the face of worldwide both internal and external resistance to same) then,

c. Might these such differences -- and specifically in relation to this such new mission -- help explain why:

(1) Security Force Assistance Brigades are now considered necessary? And why

(2) U.S. Army Green Berets are not considered sufficient -- and/or appropriate -- for this job?…

While it's good to read that these new SFABs will get top-of-the-line equipment (compared to some STTs who got rusty weapons from the units supporting them), I'm curious to find out what they will be training/ advising their host-nation counterparts on. I'd hate to see these SFAB troops assume that their foreign counterparts need to use what US forces are accustomed to using.

Deploying to "Third-World-a-stan" and training the host-nation forces on generating Powerpoint presentations, or handing over Harris radios with SATCOM capability to military units full of folks who can barely read makes no sense, yet I saw conventional and SOF elements do this in Afghanistan. The SFAB troopers need to be familiar with operating as the US Army did in the 80s or earlier....acetate overlays on maps, CEOIs for comms security, PRC-77s VS. tactical communications systems that also enable one to speak to Starfleet Command, etc, etc....