The U.S. Army has maintained a consistent presence across the Central Command region for decades; while that presence has evolved through the years, the focus on strengthening readiness, partnerships, and interoperability remains constant.
The 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade plays a key, recently re-energized, role in that focus. The U.S. Army’s SFABs comprise roughly 800 Soldiers who conduct worldwide security force assistance operations at the operational and tactical level to help develop the capacity and capability of foreign security forces.
The 3rd SFAB stood up in 2019 to specifically support the CENTCOM region, and elements of the unique battalion mobilized to Southwest Asia earlier this summer to establish a command and control node in support of Operation Spartan Shield.
“The SFAB is a unique organization established and employed by the U.S. Army to advance theater security cooperation with allies and partners,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew Whittingham, the senior enlisted advisor for 1st Battalion, 3rd SFAB. “The SFAB’s companies contain slightly higher rank structure than other conventional brigade combat teams and include post-key developmental complete officers and NCOs at echelon.”
The SFAB’s recent deployment and presence in theater demonstrates its mission in action.
The geographic proximity and relationship to Task Force Spartan, U.S. Army Central’s forward operational presence in the region, also positions the SFAB for mission success.
This particular force-package deployment of SFAB teams to the CENTCOM area is significant because it includes engagements with countries beyond Afghanistan and Iraq, said Lt. Col. Brendan Gallagher, 1st Battalion, 3rd SFAB commander.
“Being forward deployed, co-located with Task Force Spartan, helps to ensure our advising efforts are firmly synchronized into the bigger picture and to ensure we are contributing to unity of effort,” said Gallagher.
Whittingham added, “Our team is blazing the trail and provides a forward U.S. presence that maintains relationships with our allies and partners and expands our influence throughout the region.”
While in Southwest Asia, the SFAB command and control node, made up of a handful of trained advisors, will provide support to partner nations when those nations request it.
The missions are run by small teams of highly skilled and trained Soldiers who can deploy to conduct a variety of security force assistance support. Their roles may include advising, supporting, liaising and assessing partner forces to build capacity and support broader objectives.
“In decades past our Army sometimes sought to obtain results with ad hoc approaches or with relatively short-term investments of time and energy,” said Gallagher. “But now we have a permanent, purpose-built organization [in the SFAB] manned with outstanding, specially-selected leaders, who are fully trained and ready to excel in building partner capacity. The SFAB is optimally suited to help contribute to positive, lasting strategic-level effects.”
While deployed to the CENTCOM area of operations, the 3rd SFAB is projected to complete as many as 26 potential missions. These missions cover a plethora of competencies including indirect fires, intelligence collection, sustainment, medical planning, and orders production.
“Across our force package we have a diverse array of 20 teams to employ that can address a wide range of challenges and opportunities for multiple countries simultaneously,” said Gallagher. “Our teams excel at assessing partner nation needs and helping develop a way forward to successfully address any gaps and build capacity.”
A key feature of the SFAB’s mission is persistent presence, which assures partner nations that the U.S. is committed to stability in the region.
“SFAB rotations into the region provide unique and invaluable training experiences for both our teams and partners as we work together to build capacity within our militaries,” said Whittingham. “The 3rd SFAB is committed to our partners and allies, and strives to build on our partners’ capacity as we expand our strategic objectives and contribute to our shared goals and interests.”
While the concept of the SFAB is fairly new, one thing can be certain: members of the 3rd SFAB are personally committed and passionate about the future of the organization and the value they’ll continue to add to the region in the future.
“The strength of 3rd SFAB is its ability to build relationships with allies and partners at the personal level; employing small, cohesive teams made up of highly-trained and motivated leaders,” said Whittingham.