FORT BENNING, Ga. - The Military Advisor Training Academy has prepared approximately 525 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade Soldiers in preparation for a future deployment as combat advisors.
Every Soldier assigned to an advising team within the brigade must go through MATA prior to the brigade's deployment.
The 1st SFAB is the Army's first brigade purposefully built to help combatant commanders accomplish theater security objectives by training, advising, assisting, accompanying and enabling allied and partnered indigenous security forces. The Army is slated to stand up five more SFABs.
The course curriculum was developed using past lessons learned, current operations, the most current doctrine and senior leader guidance.
"Instructors for MATA have recent advising experience and we also reach out and allow information to flow from recent theater operations to the course," said Dave Parker, MATA training specialist.
Soldiers who complete MATA and deploy as combat advisors provide the Army with added capabilities in support of the national defense strategy.
The MATA is providing 1st SFAB Soldiers with valuable training in preparation for their future deployment, said Maj. Jacob White, company commander of 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB.
White said he has been an advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the MATA is the most formal advisor training he has received. He said the course allowed him to reflect on past experience and get more training repetitions in preparation for a future deployment as an advisor.
"The most valuable part of the class was the mock key leader engagements," said Capt. Henry Donnelly, combat advisor team leader of 1st Battalion, 1st SFAB. "During the mock [key leader engagements] we were able to practice using a linguist and prepare for our role as advisors."
Staff Sgt. Nathan Reible, MATA instructor and psychological operation sergeant, said the intent of the mock KLEs was for students to learn how to communicate through a linguist, develop face-to-face engagement techniques, cultural understanding and rapport building.
The course incorporates other critical thinking exercises that focus on problem solving skills critical to combat advising.
It is important for advisors to foreign security forces to have critical thinking skills that allow them to work through a wide variety of problem sets, Parker said.
Parker said the majority of the MATA curriculum is universal to any location, however, location-specific training can be provided upon request.
The MATA also emphasizes the key attributes to being a successful combat advisor.
"Advisors must understand the key advisor attributes and embody them when conducting security force assistance - this is vital to mission success," Reible said.
Parker said some of the attributes they put emphasis on during MATA are: being self-motivated, empathetic and being a team player. He said it is important for every member of an advisor team to possess and embody the key attributes because a team is only as strong as the weakest link.
The MATA emphasized the importance of rapport building with foreign partners and provided specific techniques for how to build rapport.
White said the course provided valuable rapport building techniques such as: attempt to use partner forces language, the importance of adhering to cultural customs and courtesies, active listening and use of universal topics for discussion to build rapport.
The MATA gave the 1st SFAB's newly formed combat advisor teams a chance to come together and build team cohesion.
"During the two-week course, we were able begin to work together as a team and get a feel for each other's strengths and weaknesses," Donnelly said.
Soldiers in 1st SFAB were very receptive to the instruction during MATA classes.
Parker said they had great discussions during the class and even requested some additional training.
Maj. Ryan Gainey, MATA deputy director, said the MATA leadership team is in the midst of discussions on extending the length of the course. A longer course would incorporate more practical exercises and more advanced skills training, he said.
Discussions on forming a MATA at Fort Benning started in November 2016. Cadre for the MATA started arriving in March and April, and the first MATA instruction for the 1st SFAB started on Aug. 7.
There were five MATA iterations for 1st SFAB between Aug. 7 and the end of September. There are additional iterations scheduled in the next few months for 1st SFAB personnel who have not completed the course.
The MATA is part of the 316th Cavalry Brigade and the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Soldiers interested in joining 1st SFAB should contact their branch manager.