FORT POLK, La. -- As Soldiers of the 162nd Infantry Brigade prepare to start training combat advisors Aug. 31, they are doing everything they can to ensure the mission begins problem free. One way to prepare for the historic event is by training the cadre to mentor combat advisors.

The Small Group Advisor Academy is a two-week instruction course that familiarizes Soldiers of the 162nd who will serve as mentors to combat advisors in training.

"It establishes consistency in training standards for our mentors and builds their knowledge across the spectrum of training events so they can effectively advise and mentor the students whatever their MOS or background is," said Maj. Mark Olin, operations officer, 162nd Inf Bde.

Soldiers who will be designated as small group advisors will go through the training, as well as others who will train combat advisors in the classroom or on a range.
"The academy is the first step in our own cadre certification program," Olin said. "After completing the SGA Academy, our trainers will travel to Fort Riley (Kan.) to observe how the training has been conducted to date, and they will continue their educational process through the Leader Professional Development program established by their battalion and the brigade."

This training is important for the Soldiers and the brigade as a whole, according to Olin. It will allow the unit to execute mission more efficiently and with a higher degree of expertise once the brigade assumes mission at the end of next month.

"The certification process is one of the most important aspects of standing up the 162nd Infantry Brigade because it establishes the credibility of the trainers as they build expertise in each subject area," Olin said.

Much like the training for combat advisors is constantly updated with lessons learned from theater, the SGA Academy will be an evolving process. The current program allows the brigade to have a standard of training which will be expanded upon as the mission grows and more lessons are learned from training and in-theater combat advisor experience.

"As we move forward, the SGA Academy will still focus primarily on the baseline tasks, but follow-on professional development sessions will include topics such as how to mentor and advise and more information relevant to each distinct theater of operations," Olin said.

"Education does not stop at the SGA Academy -- that's just the first step in building expertise and credibility as a trainer. We expect every Soldier assigned to the 162nd to continue learning and growing throughout their assignment to Fort Polk to both create world-class trainers for the 162nd and further their own professional development."