ZUUNMOD, Mongolia — Two advisor teams from 2nd Battalion, 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade partnered with the Mongolian Land Forces Command during a multi-month rotation into theater beginning in Oct. 2022, focused on strengthening Mongolia’s peacekeeping operations and non-commissioned officer development initiatives.
Since early 2021, 5th SFAB has maintained a persistent partnership with Mongolia’s LFC, the army component of the Mongolian Armed Forces.
The two teams that employed to support this partnership over the course of the current force package are Company Advisor Team 5220 and Maneuver Advisor Team 5223.
“Both CAT 5220 and MAT 5223 have been employed in Mongolia before,” said Maj. Steve Morse, Team Leader for CAT 5220. “We benefit immensely from the country experience and continuity of relationships on both teams this persistent partnership provides.”
Morse is the commander of 5th SFAB operations in Mongolia.
“The continuity enriches our Advisors’ relationships and advising efforts, and with our partners, it ensures we remain closely aligned with their priorities,” Morse said.
In support of those priorities, advisors have been providing daily advising at the tactical level over the last several months in small unit leadership, interoperability and NCO development.
Staff Sgt. Richard Kennedy, the team medical advisor, is one of several with previous advising experience in Mongolia and noted “previous time in Mongolia helped me to grasp the cultural and army differences better, allowing me to communicate, instruct and create relationships more effectively.”
Earlier this year, both teams supported a bilateral exercise called Zev, which translates to "arrow tip," focused on these training objectives in an extreme cold weather environment — an operating environment with which Mongolia is very familiar.
“The unit commander and I spoke often, and he’d often rib us about the weather,” related Maj. Morse. “‘It says here ‘Extreme Cold Weather training,’ he’d tell me, referring to part of the title of the event. ‘In Mongolia, this is not extreme.’”
In Mongolia, temperatures frequently dipped to -40 degrees and below during training.
“We ensured all our advisors had basic cold weather training, including several with advanced training from the Alaska schoolhouse,” Morse said.
“We combined with the Mongolians’ mastery of the elements and experience, creating conditions for a powerful subject matter exchange opportunity throughout training.”
Staff Sgt. Michael Catanzaro, the senior operations advisor for MAT 5223, and Staff Sgt. Roy Wilson, the team’s assistant operations advisor, completed cold weather training taught by the Northern Warfare Training Center.
The NWTC is located at the Black Rapids Training Site in Alaska, this was an integral part of the team’s preparation for the winter training.
“The [Cold Weather Leader’s Course] covered multiple topics from preventing injuries, to maintaining equipment, to land navigation, all in extreme cold and mountainous terrain,” Catanzaro explained. “The training allowed us to provide a baseline of knowledge to both our own advisors and our Mongolian partners.
Headquartered at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, 5th SFAB advisors have limited ability to train on cold weather operations.
“This training helped us have an exchange about how to use our issued cold weather gear, prevent cold weather injuries and conduct combined small unit operations,” Catanzaro said.
Staff Sgt. Wilson, who completed the Isolation Survival Cold Region Course, added, “the exchange of knowledge helped us to understand each others’ gear and equipment and allowed us to conduct squad and platoon operations safely.”
In addition to cold weather training, MAT 5223 also benefited from their experience training with partners at the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center in Hawaii earlier in the employment.
“After JPMRC, the team was in an effective mindset to integrate with Mongolian LFC,” explained MAT 5223 Team Leader, Capt. Dylan Ward.
“JPMRC gave us extra experience in developing programs of instruction to train with a partner force, team resiliency from conducting a field training exercise in austere conditions, and useful context in training small unit operations after seeing partner integration during a real, large-scale exercise," Ward said.
Advisors have also supported Mongolia’s initiatives to expand its NCO development.
“Last summer, in 2022, SFAB advisors supported the inaugural rotation of the Junior Sergeant Course, a course which complements existing NCO education in the Mongolian National Defense University,” describes 1st Sgt. Fernando Villafana, the team’s senior NCO.
SFAB Advisors were integrated into the program of instruction. “Our team is supporting the current course, with Mongolian instructors-in-training who will begin lead in future courses,” said Villafana.
Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Rouse, an infantryman currently serving as CAT 5220’s Senior Support Advisor, explained how these initiatives are connected.
“NCO development is an important complementary effort to small unit leadership and peacekeeping operations,” Rouse said. “The NCO training focus on ingraining fundamental leadership qualities into junior Sergeants at the squad level. This is critical training to enable them to better plan, prepare and execute tasks at echelon.”
In addition to training, the Mongolians have welcomed advisors into their cultural and social experiences.
Sgt. 1st Class Lester Reed, CAT 5220’s fires advisor, explains: “Cultural activities lets them know that we are invested in them and gives everyone a break from the training. Basketball [a popular sport in both countries] was a great way for them to work as a team and build chemistry.”
“In a particularly special event, the advisors’ Mongolian partners hosted us for a celebration of Tsagaan Sar (meaning White Moon, the Mongolian Lunar New Year),” Morse said. “The Mongolians invited us into a traditional ger, owned by the cattle farmer who provides meat for the local unit."
Advisors had the opportunity to ride horses, help with farming chores, and participate in Mongolian traditions.
“These professional relationships extend beyond advisors’ efforts while on the force package, as they work together again at other exercises, conferences or train together again in Mongolia, Morse said.”
The 5th SFAB Advisors of Force Package 23-1 in Mongolia will transition efforts to the next force package to continue the partnership into the summer of 2023.