FORT CARSON, Colo. -- In a rare virtual ceremony, the Army’s latest security force assistance brigade to stand up officially activated Tuesday as it prepares to deploy to Afghanistan this fall.
The 4th SFAB, based at Fort Carson, is the fifth of six similar units to stand up after the Army activated the first one in 2018, as part of a re-focused train, assist and advise strategy that envisioned the specialized units in hotspots around the world.
The SFABs serve as permanent organizations that provide a more concerted effort than previous ad hoc formations, such as military transition teams or security force assistance advisory teams.
To create the previous units, the Army pulled from conventional brigade combat teams that then reduced their effectiveness.
“And though necessary at the time, all of this had a long-term, negative impact on total force readiness,” said Gen. Michael Garrett, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command. “Back then, we treated security force assistance as a peripheral task when, in fact, it is central to the National Defense Strategy and our Army’s mission.”
Since 2018, SFABs have deployed to assist foreign partners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa. Members of an SFAB train, deploy and redeploy together as part of an enduring group. After some time resetting back at home, the teams in that same brigade deploy again.
Security force assistance is far from a new concept, the general said, as today’s heritage can be traced back to the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam created in the 1960s for the war.
The general said there is now an increasing need for combat advisors, which free up BCTs to better prepare for large-scale ground combat with near-peer adversaries.
“They are Soldiers who can build teams, solve complex problems and succeed in uncertain environments,” he said.
The newest combat advisors have already learned specialized skills from the Military Advisor Training Academy, as well as advanced medical training; survival, evasion, resistance, and escape training; and foreign weapons training.
In June, the 4th SFAB is slated to conduct the next rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana.
It will be “the first one out of the chute as we work to figure out how we maintain readiness as we adjust to the new normal,” Garrett said.
Brig. Gen. Mark Landes, commander of the Security Force Assistance Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, dialed in via videoconference for the ceremony, which had Garrett and a few others spaced 6 feet apart with the unit’s guidon inside a large conference room.
Landes called the ceremony “historic and atypical,” but noted that while the ongoing threat from the virus has changed how the Army operates, it has not changed its essence.
“COVID-19 has allowed us another opportunity to showcase our character, our capability and our adaptability,” he said.
The ceremony signified 4th SFAB’s transformation into a trained and deployable formation, he said, adding he was impressed with how much it grew since January 2019.
“Every person in the unity and victory formation was selected and relocated to the unit,” Landes said, referring to the unit’s motto. “Every pencil and piece of paper had to be obtained using systems and processes that also had to be developed and incorporated.”
The 5th SFAB, out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, will be the last SFAB to stand up, slated for this summer. The 54th SFAB, a collection of National Guard Soldiers from several states, activated in March.
With about 800 Soldiers, the 4th SFAB is scheduled to replace the 3rd SFAB to continue the mission in Afghanistan.
“These SFABs are advising, assisting and developing professional organized militaries that can fight for themselves,” Landes said.
Its commander, Col. James Dooghan, said he was confident that each advisor is fully trained and equipped with the best tools to tackle the challenge.
“We selected the right people in the right positions to be ready and effective in assessing, advising, mentoring and assisting our international partners,” he said. “We’re proud to officially announce our activation and we look forward to this mission.”