By Capt. Jay Beeman, 5th Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance BrigadeApril 30, 2019
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- What is the best way to train conventional force military advisors? That's a big question for combat advisor teams in security force assistance brigades (SFAB). One option is to find a place where you can stress your organic skill sets with real-world counterpart forces who think and act for themselves.
Six engineer advisor teams from the U.S. Army's 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade stationed at Fort Benning, travelled to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) at Hohenfels, Germany, to train in a multinational environment.
The 1st SFAB advisors participated in Allied Spirit X, an exercise which included approximately 5,630 participants from 15 nations at the 7th Army Training Command's Hohenfels Training Area from March 30 to April 17, 2019.
Partner nations included Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Germany's 21st Armored Brigade commanded the multinational brigade headquarters.
The Allied Spirit series rotates countries as the brigade headquarters leading the exercise, so all participating nations gain experience of working together in and for a multinational effort.
Allied Spirit X is unique in its ability to provide hands-on experience and testing of secure communications between NATO allies and partners.
1st SFAB's teams integrated with task force elements within the JMRC Operations Group to learn how they could affect the environment and gain insight in to future training opportunities.
"The opportunities to improve interoperability and sharpen advisor skills are endless when 15 nations come together to fight alongside each other during a crucible training event such as Allied Spirit X," said Maj. Albert Butler, a company commander from 5th Battalion, 1st SFAB, who led the teams in Germany.
Operations of this magnitude and pace are excellent for stressing the systems at all echelons, and advisor teams are no exception.
Equipped with mobile mission command and communications systems, the teams exercised sending real-time updates through and outside their normal chain of command. A difficult process which needs to be practiced regularly to develop proficiency.
The Engineer teams tracked efforts from German, American, Israeli, and British forces during training scenarios and informed the advisor network at the British battalion and German brigade commands.
They created a common operating picture in a multi-national environment where ground forces are challenged by technological and systems interoperability.
Although their efforts did not replace the formal chain of commands of the international partners, they validated 1st SFAB's capabilities and revealed opportunities for future employment in this type of military exercise.
The relationships established with each nation's army are invaluable to the professional development of the 1st SFAB.
Capt. Ronald Garee, an advisor team leader, said "the cultural immersion with the Israeli Defense Force proved to be particularly valuable to [Combat Advisor Team] 1512…sharing doctrine, [tactics, techniques and procedures], as well as cultural exchanges like the observation of the Shabbat gave the team valuable repetitions at rapport building with a partnered [foreign security force]."
Allied Spirit X tested the capacity of the advisor teams to leverage interpersonal skills, doctrinal mastery, flexibility, cross cultural communications, and problem solving.
Few environments allow combat advisors to exercise their advise, assess, support, and liaison functions in a large, fast paced but controlled training environment.
"Working alongside a foreign military can create levels of friction which test a team's cultural awareness and ability to display expert knowledge in problem solving -- those skills which lie at the core of advising. This is nearly impossible to recreate anywhere else and that alone makes this type of event the best training opportunity for advisors to pursue in the future," said 1st Sgt. Blake Atkins, first sergeant for Bravo Company, 5th Battalion.