WASHINGTON -- The Army announced it had accelerated fielding of its security force assistance brigades, or SFABs, to allow traditional brigade combat teams to focus on readiness for warfighting against near-peer threats.
"It is my assessment, and the assessment of the Secretary and the assessment of the Army staff, that we are likely to be involved in train, advise, and assist operations for many years to come," said Chief of Staff of the ArmyGen. Mark Milley during the 2017 AUSA Annual Meeting.
The Army staff determined that strategic-advisory missions are here to stay, and the SFABs improve the Army's ad-hoc solutions, which relied heavily on conventionally organized brigade combat teams for the last 15 years.
During a Warrior's Corner presentation at the AUSA meeting, Brig. Gen. Brian Mennes, director of Force Management with the Army's G-3/5/7, discussed the SFABs and their mission to train partner forces such as the Iraqi and Afghan armies.
"It's a very important function," he said.
The decision to accelerate fielding of SFABs was made this summer by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Gen. Milley.
To fill the SFABs, the Army is looking for high-performance Soldiers with a "propensity to learn." Soldiers must score at least 240 on the Army Physical Fitness Test, with 80 in each category.
Commanders and leaders will have previously commanded and led similar BCT units at the same echelon, and enlisted advisors will be the rank of sergeant and above.
"All the Soldiers are volunteers, they are highly vetted," Milley said. "They will approach standards similar to the Ranger Regiment."
SFABs will field the best equipment, according to Mennes. The new units should receive the best weapons and night-observation devices, along with state-of-the-art communications equipment.
Mennes believes the SFAB units are essential for three reasons:
1. They will improve the Army's ability to partner with other nations.
2. SFABs allow the Army to reduce, over time, the demand for combat advising from conventional brigade combat teams.
3. In a time of national emergency, SFABs will provide options for the Army to grow BCTs rapidly.
SFABs will be staffed initially with about 500-600 officers and NCOs, who will be selected based on qualifications and experience, along the lines of Special Operations.
A new school was stood up at Fort Benning earlier this year to train the SFAB Soldiers. The Military Advisor Training Academy offers unique instruction to the NCOs and officers, who learn about the social aspects and cultures of their partner nations, how to work with interpreters, and "the art of negotiation."
"SFABs are not Special Forces," Mennes stressed, but they do receive some comparable training, including language instruction.
These new units are an excellent opportunity for young officers and NCOs to expand their experience, he said. One company commander he met couldn't speak more highly of the experience he gained while training Iraqi troops in Mosul earlier this year.
Eventually, the Army will have five active SFABs and one in the National Guard. Initially, two will focus on the Middle East, with the additional SFABs concentrating on the Pacific, Africa and possibly Europe.
SFABs are a permanent, additive force structure. They are being developed and deployed as a solution to an enduring Army requirement in support of the defense strategy. SFABs will deploy to combat zones and will likely sustain a higher deployment tempo than other conventional Army units.
"This is a large plank in our national defense strategy," Mennes said.
According to Gen. Milley, "SFABs will be institutionalized into the Army and will not impact the service's force structure."