By Maj. Matthew FontaineMarch 19, 2018
ADVISOR PLATFORM LIGHTNING, Afghanistan -- The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade and its six battalions uncased their colors across Afghanistan March 15, symbolically beginning their mission to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
The deployment of 1st SFAB marks the first time the Army's newest unit -- specially designed to partner with and enable allied conventional forces -- is operationally employed by a combatant command.
The 1st SFAB's brigade headquarters uncased their colors during a ceremony at Advisor Platform Lightning in the southeastern province of Paktiya. An uncasing ceremony is an Army tradition in which a unit removes their colors from a protective case symbolizing their readiness to begin their mission in a deployed location.
The brigade's six battalions, which are spread all across Afghanistan in seven of the NATO Resolute Support Mission's Train, Advise, Assist Commands and Task Forces, uncased their colors the same day.
"I couldn't be more proud of this great team of combat advisors," said Col. Scott Jackson, the 1st SFAB Commander. "In less than a year, these outstanding professionals came together and built a brigade from the ground up, completed an intense training program and deployed to Afghanistan, fully ready to partner with the ANDSF."
The unit's advising capacity represents an augmentation of the existing capability that exists across the seven facets of advising already resident in the Resolute Support Mission. 1st SFAB takes advising to a lower tactical level to expand the advising effort across the ANDSF.
The majority of SFAB soldiers have Afghanistan combat deployments under their belts, are culturally astute, and, after undergoing special training, have now volunteered to return. What differentiates the SFAB from other Resolute Support elements is not just the U.S. soldiers' experience, but the fact they will be working closer to the conflict's front lines than trainers have done in recent years. With focused teams dedicated to specific units, commanders will be able to tailor support to the Afghan National Army for a specific situation.
Advisors in 1st SFAB will partner with Afghan National Army kandaks -- the ANA equivalent of a battalion -- in each of the Train, Advise, Assist Commands Task Forces in Afghanistan. Conventional force advising at this level of operation has not been seen for several years.
The advisors will also partner with several ANA brigade headquarters, and the 1st SFAB brigade headquarters will partner with the ANA's 203rd Corps headquarters in Task Force Southeast.
In addition to the advisors from 1st SFAB, several hundred soldiers from 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, deployed with 1st SFAB to serve as their security force element. The security force helps the advisors focus on their partners while keeping both advisors and their Afghan partners safe.
The 1st SFAB, which activated in August and cased its colors in February at Fort Benning, conducted an extensive training program to prepare for this mission. The training included the newly formed Military Advisor Training Academy and culminated in a unique security force assistance-focused mission readiness exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk.
The SFAB concept comes directly from Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, who envisioned new, specially-trained formations built to enable combatant commanders to accomplish theater security objectives by, with and through allied and partnered indigenous security forces.
The SFAB will enable offensive operations in multiple ANA corps simultaneously. As such, they will serve as a key element of the Resolute Support campaign to apply constant military pressure against the enemy. It is a full, integrated approach to the battle space which will drive us and the Afghan military to attain our objectives.