JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. The 1st Battalion, 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade, completed the cumulative Team Readiness Assessment Program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, March 20-24, 2023.
Advisor teams move through three distinctive six-month cycles designed to prepare and enable a "Force Package" to rotate into the Indo-Pacific Area of Responsibility once every 18 months.
A Force Package is comprised of a Maneuver Battalion, including its headquarters, a Functional Battalion Headquarters, and various functional enablers, including fires, engineers, and logistics teams.
TRAP is the culminating exercise for the first six-month cycle: the Foundational Phase.
"TRAP takes place during our Foundational Training Cycle where SFAB Teams train and certify individual Advisors as team members on the common core tasks that can be translated to a Foreign Security Force," said Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Harmon, Battalion Advisor Team 510.
The exercise validates individual Advisors in a field environment before teams move into the Collective Training Cycle, where their focus is on team-level operations.
"Junior and Senior noncommissioned officers and officers in the organization gain a high level of proficiency on over 30 Shoot, Move, Communicate, Medicate, and Advise tasks relevant to our current AOR operations and training," Harmon said.
Through coordination between Command Sgt. Maj. Will Langes, the Brigade Command Sergeant Major, and the current Force Package, command sergeants major, operating forward in the Indo-Pacific, we synchronize and ensure Advisors readiness as task-organized Force Packages.."
The expertise gained from train-up to completion of TRAP ensures Advisors are ready to share their knowledge with the partner force. Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures are at the core of TRAP as Advisors build confidence in themselves and their role on an SFAB team.
"We concentrate on Advisor tasks outlined in Security Force Assistance Command 350-1," said 1st Sgt. Steven Damron, a Maneuver Advisor with Company Advisor Team 5120. "On execution day, we conduct an in-depth communication review, creating a clean network for internal and external comms."
TTPs are not learned and implemented in a single try; they take time and practice before proficiency emerges.
"Since TRAP is the first major validation for an Advisor, it's important to identify weakness and note mistakes before they can become costly," Damon said. "Moving forward with this knowledge helps shape our focus individually and as team members."
Staff Sgt. Warren Mohan, an Explosive Hazard Advisor with CAT 5110, shared his recent experience.
"TRAP was my first chance to work in a field setting with my team, CAT 5110," Mohan said. "We could assess the strengths and weaknesses of one another and gain a shared understanding of where our strengths and weaknesses are."
SFAB Advisors are hired based on their professional standing as soldiers and previously demonstrated success as a professional in their Military Occupational Specialty. Sgt. Moreno Richard, a Communications Advisor with MAT 5133, shared his lessons learned from a Commo Advisor's perspective during the exercise.
"Thinking about how I was going to handle the partner force as we met with them the first time stands out as a major point," Moreno said. "As a Commo Advisor, I focused on ensuring my team could communicate with one another and our higher headquarters. My familiarity with the Scaleable Class of Unified Terminals (SCOUT) system is still developing, so setting up in the field and having time to troubleshoot through potential barriers was helpful."
All Advisors cross-train on warfighting functions outside their traditional MOS.
"This is an essential skill required of each team member," said Staff Sgt. William Tennent, a Maneuver Advisor with Maneuver Advisor Team 5113. "Supporting each other's warfighting functions in the absence of other team members or in cases where we need to share responsibilities due to task saturation on a single Advisor helps even the workload."
Cross-training requires time to practice and share knowledge across the team. Each team member helps shape the learning environment for their fellow Advisors during the Foundational Phase.
"Pre-TRAP, we committed a significant amount of time to practice the skills and tasks that don't usually fall under our specific warfighting functions," Mohan said. "My team, myself included, still have much to work on, but we are glad to know what we need to improve before employing.
Identifying weaknesses on the team level is necessary for Force Package success. Advisors need to experience failures in training to work humbly with the partner force and understand the learning curves innate to the teaching process.
"Now that I know what my team's deficiencies are, I can create a plan to better prepare us for training with the FSF," Mohan said.
TRAP isn't only about helping SFAB Advisors gain self-awareness and confidence as individual Soldiers. It's a time for Advisors to discover how their role on a team contributes to the more extensive operation at hand.
"TRAP is an important step in developing a strong relationship with your team members," Damron said. "Working together and understanding each other's role is part of that. The team is built and designed to operate with all 12 Advisors; when our operational capacity is mutually understood from this perspective, our goals for FP employment become attainable."
Because TRAP is an SFAB-specific program, it's not a carbon copy of traditional Army concepts and methodologies designed to validate larger formations for interoperability with foreign partners and allies.
"Our performance demonstrated that we can build relationships and partner capacity, communicate using the SCOUT, follow Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) and evacuation procedures, and plan and prepare resources needed for training for our Partner Forces," Mohan said.
"As a lead planner for TRAP, I see these experiences through the lens of orders annexes and appendices, macro and micro timelines," said Sgt 1st Class Brian Fisher, 1st Battalion Plans and Operations NCO.
"The faith placed in me to perform and lead these tasks is traditionally assigned to an officer, but in the SFAB, it's one of my roles. As a fellow Advisor who also rotates into the theater, this empowers me to better serve and work alongside our foreign partners."
Fisher points out NCOs are known as the backbone of the Army. In the SFAB, they are the driving force of operations with the partner force.
"Empowering them to function at the tip of the spear is one reason why SFABs can exist in the first place," Fisher said.
"It goes a long way to demonstrate how impactful outstanding NCO leadership and involvement is in the Army. It proves to our host nation partners and allies that the NCO capabilities on our Advisor teams are well suited as the driving force in both competition and conflict."
Advisors from 1st Battalion will now complete six months of Collective training, culminating in participation with an actual partner force in a major training exercise. These Advisors will next deploy in the Fall of 2023.