By Staff Sgt. Sierra A. MelendezNovember 6, 2017
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Soldiers and leaders with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade conducted their first combined field training exercise, or FTX, at Fort Benning, Georgia, Oct. 16 - Oct. 27.
This FTX was the first time since the unit's inception in August that all six battalions and the brigade headquarters were able to merge their efforts together for a successful training exercise.
"All of our training so far has been individual training, whether it be the Military Advisor Training Academy, the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training, our language training or foreign weapons," said Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher D. Gunn, command sergeant major of the 1st SFAB. "This exercise has given us the opportunity to combine all of our small combat advisory teams in order to build the necessary bonds to make better advisory teams."
While FTX's are a dime a dozen throughout the Army, the 1st SFAB's exercise was unique in that their mission focus was centered on advise and assist efforts rather than traditional decisive action scenarios conducted in conventional units.
This pioneer unit is the first of its kind. Created with the intention to alleviate the enduring advise and assist mission load on brigade combat teams, the SFABs are new formations specially trained and built to enable combatant commanders to accomplish theater security objectives by training, advising, assisting, accompanying and enabling allied and partnered indigenous security forces.
"We ask the central question here and that's 'how does an advisory team fight?'" said Col. Scott Jackson, the commander of the 1st SFAB. "And it's different than how a rifle platoon fights. We have been using the past two weeks to shape that and figure that out."
Jackson stressed the importance of the 1st SFAB in a supporting role versus on the front-line conducing warfighting against near-peer threats.
"Our advisors are not in the lead, our foreign partners are in the lead," said Jackson. "We have to figure out how to position ourselves on the ground, integrate with them in order to make them better and more lethal but yet not be at the very front leading the fight. We're supporting the fight."
The desired end-state of the exercise was to help develop the unit into a well-trained fighting force to advise and assist partner forces abroad in austere environments -- a circumstance that is likely to be in the 1st SFAB's very near future.
Maj. Joseph Loar, the operations officer for 1st Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 1st SFAB, hopes this particular training exercise will build proficiency for the unit's likely deployment overseas where they will be advising foreign partners on a battalion level.
"Our teams conducted call for fires, medical evacuations for both American and foreign allied wounded, and focused on getting our 12-man teams adept to advising in the most austere environments or more permanent locations such as forward operation bases," said Loar.
Loar said the FTX has showcased just how experienced the SFAB's senior leaders are -- which has made for a training exercise that stood out to many.
"Myself and many others here have said 'this has been the best field training exercise we have had throughout our entire careers' and I have been in 18 years now," said Loar. "The average years of experience from everyone is about 10 years, which has clearly been evident the past few weeks."
Soldiers interested in joining the 1st SFAB should contact their branch managers for more information on volunteering.