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New academy will train NCOs for Security Force Assistance Brigades

NCO Journal Report

February 28, 2017

New academy

A new Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, will train both noncommissioned and commissioned officers assigned to a new type of unit: the Security Force Assistance Brigade.

The first six-week course at the academy is scheduled to begin in October as the first Soldiers for the new unit report to Fort Benning. Eventually, six SFABs will stand up.

These new brigades will have no junior enlisted Soldiers. They will be staffed with 500 senior NCOs and officers who will have the expertise to help train foreign militaries.

The effects that the SFABs will bring to the Army will actually be three-fold, said Col. Brian Ellis, maneuver division chief in the directorate of force management at the Pentagon who led planning for the new brigades.

“First, the Army will more effectively advise and assist foreign security forces,” he said.

“The second is to preserve the readiness of our brigade combat teams by reducing the need to break apart those formations to conduct security assistance missions.”

This will preserve BCT readiness for full-spectrum operations.

The third role of the SFAB is to help the Army more quickly regenerate brigade combat teams when needed. If the Army needs another BCT, for example, junior Soldiers would fall in on an existing SFAB, which is already full of senior NCOs and officers. Having a pre-built command structure in place will significantly speed up the process of generating new brigades, Ellis said.

An SFAB serves as a “standing chain of command for rapidly expanding the Army,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations and training.

In the meantime, the SFABs will be the Army’s first permanent units whose core mission is to conduct security cooperation activities, he said, allowing quick response to combatant commander requirements.

SFABs will be designed on the model of infantry and armored brigade combat teams, Ellis said, with a framework staff of NCOs in the grade of staff sergeant and above, and officers who are captains and above. Each brigade will have a cavalry squadron and two maneuver battalions, either infantry or armor.

Each company will have three teams of four trainers and a company headquarters. And even the headquarters will serve as a training team, Ellis said.

Soldiers will report by battalions to the Military Advisor Training Academy. The first battalion will begin training at the academy in October.

The academy itself will have a cadre of approximately 70 instructors, including some special forces soldiers, Ellis said.

After the initial six-week course, SFAB officers and NCOs will receive follow-up training in foreign languages, cultural studies and foreign weapons, Ellis said. He explained that it will take about a year to train a unit up to full operating capability so that an SFAB can deploy to assist a combatant commander.

The first SFAB unit will be permanently stationed at Fort Benning. The second one, which is planned to stand up in the fall of 2018, will be a National Guard brigade, Ellis said. The third SFAB will be in the regular Army, and it is planned to begin training in the fall of 2018, though permanent stationing and resourcing decisions haven’t been made yet past the first brigade.

Currently, the Army has three BCTs deployed for advise and assist missions, Ellis said. It may be a few years before the new SFABs will be able to handle all of that demand.

In the meantime, the 3-353rd Armor Battalion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, will continue training BCTs to handle security force assistance missions.

Ellis said the Army’s six SFABs should eventually be able to handle the bulk of SFA missions, in support of security cooperation, stability operations, and counterinsurgency operations.