FORT HOOD, Texas -- The 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas will train, advise and assist our allied and partner nation forces at a future date, but are honing their skills now and providing training for Joint Fires Observer Evaluators (JFO-E) here.
"We are in an incredibly unique position because of the talent that is currently in the United States Army, we have been able to hire volunteers that come in with these qualifications," said Lt. Col. Julian Urquidez, 4th Battalion, 3rd SFAB commander. "For example, Sgt. 1st Class Anderson is a school trained Fire Support Master Gunner (FSMG), he is a JFO-E and has been a JFO for multiple years."
According the Army Field Manual 3-09, a Joint Fires Observer is "a trained service member who can request, adjust, and control surface-to-surface fires, provide targeting information in support of Type 2 and 3 close air support terminal attack control, and perform autonomous terminal guidance operations," and a JFO-E is authorized to supervise and instruct JFOs in all aspects of their training and evaluations.
"JFO-Es are a highly experienced and qualified JFO," said Sgt. 1st Class Corey Anderson, the FSMG for 3rd SFAB. "JFO-Es are selected by the FSMG/JFO Program Manager and recommended to the battalion commander to become a JFO-E, and as a JFO-E they supervise and instruct JFOs in all aspects of JFO training and conduct JFO evaluations."
There are 17 academic classes that the JFO-Es are required to teach throughout the year to maintain their JFO's currency in their formations. For the 3rd SFAB, this is a training opportunity for advisors to teach these courses and build on their train, advise, assist, enable and accompany skills.
4th Battalion, 3rd SFAB, the Field Artillery advisor unit in the Army's newest SFAB, established the Fort Sill, Okla. validated training to enable the 3rd SFAB teams to integrate joint fires to support their missions. The instructors for the course provide training for JFOs here that will allow them to maintain their own battalion programs. The unit also ensures they remain tied into the Field Artillery schoolhouse at Fort Sill.
"One of the things we do not want to do is be behind the institution, we should be hand in hand and parallel with the institution ensuring our POI, or our program of instruction, mirrors what Fort Sill is teaching," said Urquidez. "The expectation is that the same product that the schoolhouse is turning out, we are turning out at 3rd SFAB."
Urquidez continued, "We have truthfully done what I think is a due diligence, we are tied into Fort Sill and the institution of the Master Gunner School, so our tests are coordinated with the Master Gunner School, so the program that we are running here in the 3rd SFAB is accredited by FCOE [Fires Center of Excellence] and the Master Gunner."
The five-day course taught by Anderson uses the Virtual Battlespace 3, or VBS-3, at the Warrior Skills Trainer here. The computer-based simulation trainer provides everything the instructors need to evaluate their students and not have to deploy to the field for instruction, saving time and resources.
"One of the awesome things about Fort Hood is the WSTC, the Warrior Skills Training Center, there they have the VBS-3," said Urquidez. "The VBS-3 has a call for fire system that is certified through the JFO Memorandum of Agreement so you can do all the tasks that the JFO MOA will ask you to do you can do virtual."
This latest course was the first iteration of JFO-E training the 3rd SFAB instructed, and included students from 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Cavalry Regiment. These six JFOs, five from 1st CAV and one from 3CR, will now be able to return to their battalions and train and maintain the proficiency of the JFOs within their units.
"If we have knowledgeable people teaching these junior enlisted soldiers, I think we would be able to keep these guys current and I think the Army would trust more in it if we had the ability to show we can keep these guys current and keep them lethal," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Mubarak, student and JFO from Steel Squadron, 3rd CR.
As the 3rd SFAB advisors continue to prepare for their train, advise and assist mission, the 4th Battalion will build and maintain the 3rd SFAB JFO program to have two JFO-Es per battalion.
"We are very fortunate that we have been able to capitalize on truthfully the talent of our Non-Commissioned Officers and Officers," said Urquidez. "In turn allow them the freedom of maneuver to go out and train, I think it is a great opportunity across the Fire Support community."