FORT MEADE, Md. -- Security force assistance brigade Soldiers from the first-ever team to operate in Africa spoke of their recent mission Wednesday in training Senegalese soldiers on logistics support.
The discussion was part of a recruiting push to add more qualified Soldiers to the Army’s six SFABs, which are still hiring using virtual assessments and bonuses worth nearly $60,000 for in-demand career fields.
SFABs have previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter of which is where the 4th SFAB will deploy this fall to replace the 3rd SFAB.
Upcoming missions will also include counter-narcotics advising in the U.S. Southern Command region, as well as others in the Indo-Pacific region and back to Africa, said Lt. Col. Kevin Field, the SFAB recruiting team lead, during a livestream on Facebook.
The SFAB mission is a re-focused train, assist and advise strategy that envisioned the specialized units in hotspots around the world.
Since they serve as permanent organizations, the units provide a more concerted effort than previous ad hoc advise and train formations, while also freeing up conventional brigade combat teams and Special Forces units.
“With the Army standing up the SFABs, it allows us to professionalize the delivery of the security assistance mission, because we have a dedicated force,” Field said. “That’s all they do. It also helps us preserve the readiness of our BCTs to respond to worldwide contingencies.”
In the first mission outside U.S. Central Command, the 1st SFAB’s Logistics Advisor Team 1610 traveled to Senegal in March to instruct its military personnel in preventative maintenance, vehicle recovery and motor pool operations.
While the training went well, team members said, the location still presented them with an unusual work environment.
Due to the reduced U.S. military presence in Africa, the team had limited tactical communications and quality medical facilities available to them, while they also had to work out of a hotel for three weeks.
“A deployment on the continent of Africa is much different than what most of us have experienced through deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq and brings about different challenges, especially for a small team,” said Maj. Michael Pachucki, the team leader.
One of the highlights for Staff Sgt. Braxton Pernice, the team’s maintenance advisor, was the vehicle recovery portion of the training.
It allowed the Senegalese soldiers “to put hands on their equipment and get familiar with how to utilize their recovery trucks,” he said. “Overall, it was a great training event and we learned a lot from them as well as they learned a lot from us.”
Pachucki, who also deployed with the 1st SFAB to Afghanistan in 2018, said his assignment with the brigade has been one of his most rewarding in his 15-year career.
“What I will promise you if you come to an SFAB,” he said, “is the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, work with great people, and receive individual and professional training opportunities not often seen in other units.”
Not only do SFABs have a unique mission, they also had higher promotion rates than other Army units last year, Field said.
Enlisted promotion rates from sergeant first class through sergeant major at SFABs ranged from 33% to 65%, compared to about 17% to 41% across the Army. On the officer side, promotion rates from major through colonel at SFABs ranged from 79% to 89%, compared to 21% to 67%.
“I will tell you that most of those individuals, they’re going to be promoted with or without SFAB in their files, because we are hiring highly-qualified individuals,” Field said. “That’s also another way the SFAB helps you get promoted, because you are being exposed to some of the top NCOs and officers in our Army from various [military occupational specialties].”
Some of the slots that SFABs are currently looking to fill include: military intelligence (35 series); unit supply specialist (92Y), fire support specialist (13F), signal (25 series); and combat engineer (12B).
As much as $58,300 is also being offered in selective retention bonuses for specialists through staff sergeants in the 35 series, as well as for information technology specialist (25B); military police (31B); and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist (74D).
Even if an enlisted Soldier does not qualify for a bonus that Soldier can still receive a $5,000 assignment incentive pay.
Positions in the SFAB also count as a broadening assignment, providing tactical options for NCOs other than being a recruiter or drill sergeant.
“This gives you the same credit as doing one of those jobs, except that you get to stay and work within your MOS and be exposed to some of that same equipment,” Field said. “So, by time your time in the SFAB is complete and you’re rotating back to your BCT, you don’t need to be re-greened. You’ve been working in your MOS with Soldiers out there.”