By Ms. Kim C Gillespie (USASAC)August 12, 2013
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Soldiers have a worldwide reputation for their outstanding training and professionalism, and those selected to serve on the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization's Security Assistance Teams for assignments as advisers to foreign military partners throughout the world are also expected to serve as official representatives of the U.S. government and the Army.
While these SAT members are highly experienced in their areas of expertise, serving as an official representative of the U.S. and the Army may require some additional training and instruction, so all SAT members are required by the Department of the Army to complete the Security Assistance Team Training and Orientation Course, or SATTOC, prior to deployment.
"We're setting the gold standard for training around the globe," Col. Joseph Bovy, USASATMO commander, said to a recent class of SATTOC attendees.
While members of SATs may be comprised of any combination of military, Department of Defense civilians, or contractors, they do have one element in common -- they must complete SATTOC prior to deploying outside the U.S., in their role as a SAT adviser, trainer and/or instructor.
"You are there to support the USASAC (Security Assistance Command, a subordinate command of Army Materiel Command, and USASATMO's major command) mission of building partner capacity, supporting strategic engagements, and strengthening global partnerships," Bovy told the 18 attendees who were largely deploying to Saudi Arabia, but also included Soldiers assigned to SATs in Egypt and Panama. "Your unique experience is also needed," he explained, while noting that being part of a SAT is also "diplomatic in nature, but with strategic implications."
While Bovy provides the course introduction and explains the standards and expectations for SAT members, the heart of the course revolves around a mix of practical and operational instruction for areas such as familiarizing the team with both their mission and their assigned country; intelligence and threats; medical care prevention; surveillance detection; hostage survival and restraint defeat; weapons qualification; and driver training.
The five-day SATTOC also includes in-processing time at Fort Bragg (where USASATMO is located) for all Permanent Change of Station SAT members and equipment issue so the deployment requirements are conducted as efficiently as possible in the short amount of time given.
SATMO's lead instructor for the May SATTOC emphasized that the purpose of the classroom instruction and the hands-on training is to teach and refresh SAT members on defensive measures, both with classroom instruction and real-time activities, for the purpose of increased awareness that will reduce their vulnerability to potential terrorist acts and threatening situations. "We get comfortable," the instructor reminded the class.
The SATTOC instructor who led the surveillance detection portion of the May course emphasized that the skill to avoiding surveillance was to understand how good surveillance is done.
"We teach you how we surveil people so you can recognize it," he said. SATTOC participants must identify both the personnel and locations of surveillance teams during their weeklong course. "It's just as important for you to realize you are being surveilled as it is not getting 'burned,' or letting your surveillor know you are on to him so you report this to your security officer," the surveillance instructor said. He also noted that surveillance is one of the key steps in the terrorist attack cycle, so avoiding surveillance can help prevent an attack or kidnapping/hostage situation later.
The instructor who led the Personal Protective Posture instruction echoed the surveillance instructor in his guidance for preventing security risk: "You've got to think like the person who wants to attack you," he said.
While many of the tips provided by SATTOC instructors may seem like common sense, such as not washing your car to make scans for bombs easier, or scanning your important paper documents to your smart phone prior to deployment rather than trying to carry sensitive information that could be lost easily. Common sense actions are the first line that is meant to avoid having to use the specific skills that are taught by SATTOC instructors for escape and evasion.
"My favorite parts of the course (SATTOC) were the restraint defeat and the hostage prevention courses," a SATTOC attendee said. "The hostage class deals with how not to become a hostage and the SATTOC training specifically identifies the steps that lead to becoming a hostage and this is what you need to look for."
The weapons qualification portion of the course is often cited as the "best" portion of the course, but it can also be the most difficult. All SATs members must qualify with a pistol prior to deployment.
"Today's PMI (Preliminary Marksmanship Instructed) began with an hour and an half of instruction on how to correctly use a weapon, the conditions, the distance, proper stance, firing position, weapon capability and then transition out to the firing range," a SATTOC weapons qualification instructor explained.
The weapons qualification instructor noted that the difference in the weapons qualification portion of the SATTOC course and normal Army weapons qualification is based on more live firing time and individual circumstances that may be encountered during their deployment as a SAT member.
"Once we go out to the firing range, we begin with PMI at seven yards, and then move to 25 yards, which is the distance they are required to qualify at," he explained.
According to the weapons instructor, during the training and qualification, each SAT member fires at least 300 rounds, which gives them more "trigger" time than is usually provided during other weapons qualifications. SATTOC training also requires that firing be conducted from various stances involving a vehicle to give them "situational" experience.
"We want to make sure they are comfortable with the weapons systems so they have the capability to use it no matter what situation they find themselves in," he concluded.
The driver training is also a SATTOC favorite, as it requires all deploying SAT members to be able to perform numerous defensive driving maneuvers on the SATTOC designed course within two minutes and 30 seconds.
"Everyone, including the instructors, gets really competitive with this," a SATTOC instructor added.
A common comment among the SATTOC class members involved the value of the training prior to deployment to countries most had never been to before, and the fact that would be part of an extremely small team rather a larger Army brigade, battalion or even company.
"SATTOC was training tailored toward the individual rather than the organization or unit. It was more specific to the AOR (Area of Responsibility) we were going into for the next 12 or so months," another SATTOC attendee, who will support a Saudi Arabian National Guard SAT, said. "The instructors' knowledge was second to none, and just being able to interact with them and ask them more questions made this training more personal," he added.
While the topics and instruction provided by SATTOC are designed to reduce risks that may be associated with serving as a SAT member, Bovy emphasizes that the instruction is meant to be "kept in the back of your mind," but their mission and engagements are a unique personal and professional experience they will never forget. His parting words prior to deployment: "Take advantage of what the host nation has to offer."
USASATMO's motto is "Training the World, One Soldier at a Time," and that includes its own SAT members.