JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – U.S. Army South hosted a pre-deployment training seminar, Operation Alamo Shield Mission Prep, at their headquarters Feb. 23-25 to prepare teams assigned to the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade for future training and advising missions in Colombia, Honduras and Panama.
As the Joint Force Land Component Command for U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Army South serves as the higher headquarters for the Security Force Assistance teams in the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility as they provide military support to diplomatic and developmental efforts, such as strengthening the capacity of professional military forces to focus on logistics, services and intelligence.
“On behalf of the Army South commanding general, Maj. Gen. Walrath, I’d like to thank the SFA teams for being here this week to support the upcoming missions in Colombia, Honduras, and Panama,” said Col. Michael Lewczak, U.S. Army South assistant chief of staff for strategy, plans and policy. “This week was an invaluable exchange of ideas and team-building. The SFAB brings a unique skill set that increases our ability to compete in the SOUTHCOM AOR. The presence of U.S. Army soldiers partnered with our regional partners is significant for us, for them, and has significant military and geopolitical importance to our country.”
The 1st SFAB was the first-ever SFAB to support SOUTHCOM with initial training and advising visits occurring in the region last year. These advising teams are specially selected and trained to assess, support, advise and liaise with allies and partners in Central and South America, and they provide assistance based on the partner militaries’ operational and institutional needs.
“With most people like me who have been in the military for 10-15 years, we have experience providing tactical advice to Afghan or Iraqi security forces, but what we’re trying to do in this situation is different and focused more at the headquarters level or operational level,” said Maj. Jesse L. Skates, the lead planner for the event and plans officer for U.S. Army South Contingency Plans.
During the three-day conference, members of U.S. Army South and the 1st SFAB initially focused on “building the team” as they received a broad overview of the future deployments. On day two, the SFAB members separated by country teams and received briefings addressing sustainment, logistics and contract support; security cooperation in orienting the SFAB members with the U.S. Embassy; and legal and diplomatic information significant to each country.
“For day two, we wanted to give the different country teams specific guidance on what to expect when they get into theater,” said Skates. “We then held a ‘tabletop exercise’ that focused on walking the SFA teams through each step of the deployment process.”
At the conclusion of each day, Keith Warman, Center for Army Lessons Learned liaison officer at U.S. Army South collected lessons and best practices feedback regarding the training to incorporate and enhance the Operation Alamo Shield Mission Preparation program of instruction for future rotations.
“Once we get their feedback, we will standardize this training event and conduct it every six months or so,” said Skates. “Then it will be part of how Army South supports all SFAB’s going forward in the region.”
The 1st SFAB leaders said they ended the week-long mission prep with additional knowledge and increased situational awareness.
“The SFA mission prep was an exceptional week of really enhancing our situational and shared understanding to prepare us to go into this next rotation and to continue to carry forward the great successes that have been started in Honduras, and we hope to continue the knowledge that we gained here over the week,” said Lt. Col. William H. Shoemate II, the 5th Battalion commander assigned to the 1st SFAB, who will lead 7 SFA teams to Honduras later this year.
The 1st SFAB, working alongside their Colombian, Honduran and Panamanian counterparts, strengthens existing regional partnerships and fosters a deeper professional and shared understanding of common challenges in the Western Hemisphere.