FORT POLK, La. — As Rotation 20-08 at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk moves into its final weekend, members of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade took a moment to reflect on the training they received during the past two weeks and how it will affect their future operations.
Capt. Jeremiah Clester, B Co operations officer, said the training has gone well.
“We’ve gleaned a lot,” he said. “We’ve received a lot of good information out of the training so far.”
Clester said the training has helped SFAB members develop confidence in their communications systems as well as how to engage foreigners through an interpreter.
“That’s one of the things we haven’t been able to train on at Fort Carson,” he said. “Learning how to talk through an interpreter is something we’ve all made improvements with.”
One area Clester noted as needing work was power generation — having enough generator power to run all the equipment an SFAB takes with it when deploying.
“It’s always been a tough issue for us,” he said. “When trying to run all of our equipment off generators, we found some issues; energy and power management was something we worked on. But we came here pretty well trained and ready to go; we’re set up for success.”
Clester said the SFAB Soldiers have been able to train on things that they can’t train on at home station beyond using interpreters, such as being able to talk to actual Afghans and setting up tactical operation centers in austere environments.
“It’s been incredibly beneficial for that,” he said.
He added the JRTC Observer, Controller/Trainers were “incredibly” helpful. “They were able to give us an outside perspective of what we are,” Clester said. “It’s great to have a pair of outside eyes looking in to see if we’re missing anything. They let us know what we’re good at and what areas need training. That way we can change our training plan when we go home and to maintain an eye on it for when we deploy.”
Clester said the SFAB doesn’t lack for confidence, with each member being a subject matter expert.
“Nothing has made us more a team,” he said. “It’s brought us closer together.”
Capt. Christopher Smith, a team leader with B Co, said putting the entire 4th SFAB in the field at one time has shown capability gaps and put stress on the unit’s communications systems.
“I think we’re definitely learning,” he said. “We’re learning bandwidth issues with some of our equipment. We’re finding we need to configure systems differently. We’re learning how terrain features affects our equipment.”
Smith said the unit has also learned to work through different types of partners.
“We’ve identified there are some who want you there; and some who may not want you there,” he said. “Having to play mental judo with different people every day and learning how to deal with different personalities was great training. The reps will help us when we go down range. It helps our team’s confidence level.”
Sgt. 1st Class Paul Curry is Smith’s assistant team leader. He said the training has been exciting.
“The dynamics are a lot different than a standard line infantry platoon,” he said. “You have 12 team members, who are generally SMEs (subject matter experts) in their career field, so you have the growing pains of a smaller unit, but the experience of having multiple platoons and companies.”
While the focus is on building teamwork with the SFAB, Curry said there is an additional benefit.
“I think when they (SFAB Soldiers) return to a regular unit they’re going to find stronger non-commissioned officers inside of their new organizations,” he said.
“They’re going to be force multipliers, bringing a wealth of knowledge wherever they go.”
Sgt. Diana McMahon is a medic in B Co. She is one of a handful of female Soldiers who volunteered to be a member of an SFAB.
“I grew up in the military in an infantry battalion, so this is a similar environment,” she said. “It’s just a little more condensed.”
McMahon said being able to execute your military occupational specialty properly is important for each team member.
“If you can execute your MOS properly, you have the confidence and trust of your teammates that you can do the job,” she said.