CAMP SHELBY, MISS. - The first National Guard units identified to provide Security Force Assistance Advisor Team support in Afghanistan recently mobilized at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center Miss. Not only is this a new mission for the National Guard, it's a new mission for the trainer mentors tasked to prepare those Soldiers for deployment.

The 158th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, mobilizes, trains, and validates Reserve Component Soldiers to meet all deployment requirements for worldwide missions.

The brigade normally trains brigade-size elements for traditional security forces missions. The brigade planners and trainers revamped their normal training strategies to meet the unique requirements of the SFA AT mission. However, for this SFA AT deployment, the brigade prepared to simultaneously train 47 teams with individual missions, explained Col. Christopher S. Forbes, 158th Inf. Bde commander.

"One of the main functions for the SFA AT team is enabling and advising the ANSF in their planning capability," said Forbes. 158th Inf. Bde

Training for the SFA AT mission required Forbes and his planners to take this planning requirement, all individual and collective Soldier skill requirements as well as the different types of advisory teams into account. They also planned around the changes to the unit structure. Comprised of nine-to-12 Soldiers, the SFA ATs must provide all support internally as opposed to a modularized brigade. The SFA AT members, however, have unique capabilities.

"Soldiers on these Security Force Assistance Advisor Teams are all subject matter experts who have deployed in their various fields multiple times," explained Master Sgt. Timothy Lawless, 158th Inf. Bde., senior operations noncommissioned officer. "Each member brings unique skills to their team."

Forbes explained the measures his team takes to ensure mobilization training is relevant, realistic and reflects the most current conditions Soldiers will face in theater.

"We do regular Pre-deployment Site Surveys and always have people deployed overseas who send us reports and updates to ensure training is current, up-to-date, and the most relevant," said Maj. Donald Lambert, current operations officer, 158th Inf. Bde.

Additionally, Forbes and his team began working with the National Guard units approximately a year in advance.

"The SFAAT mission has three parts with multiple legs under each part," explained Command Sgt. Maj. William Gardner, senior enlisted advisor, 158th Inf. Bde. "One, the SFAAT team must build a trusting relationship with their ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] counterparts. Two, they must build a working relationship with their Battle Space Owner (BSO). And, finally, they must learn how to put an Afghan official between the team and the problem, giving credibility to the ANSF."

"This is in keeping with the U.S. Army's design of being responsive, innovative, flexible, agile and lethal, providing versatility and depth to the Joint Force," continued Gardner. "When bringing teams together you're bringing together a concentration of knowledge and experiences gained through deployments."

Once in theater, SFA ATs provide mentorship and training, enabling Afghan National Security Forces to conduct more effective intelligence and tactical operations and to prevent terrorism and insurgency. When they arrive in theater, the teams will be assigned in the following roles: Afghan National Army (ANA) Brigades Advisory Teams, Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) Provincial Advisory Teams, Operations Coordination Center (OCC) Regional Advisory Teams, Operations Coordination Center (OCC) Provincial Advisory Teams, Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) Brigade Advisory Teams, Afghan National Army (ANA) Infantry Kandak Advisory Teams, Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) District Advisory Teams, Afghan National Civic Order Police (ANCOP) Kandak Advisory Teams.

"It is not give a cookie-cutter system," explained Lawless. "Each team will help the ANSF navigate their own systems for their mission set.

"SFA ATs must be able to plan a deliberate defense and ensure the ANSF do well," said Forbes. "We must provide SFA AT teams training in fundamentals of offense and defense and how to advise these in the field. This will only increase in its importance as the ANSF take a greater lead in security operations and BSOs get smaller with responsibility for larger areas."

"The type of training that develops these SFAT teams will also develop leaders for the future of our Army," said Gardner. "Our Army will be leaner and more agile. That requires leaders who are flexible and can make smart decisions quickly. This training will produce these leaders."

The 47 National Guard teams, primarily from Texas and Hawaii, began arriving at Camp Shelby in early August. Over the next several months, they'll complete post-mobilization training at Shelby. This includes security, medical, gunnery, convoy urban operations, react to IEDs or other unexploded ordnance, COIN, base defense, driver's training and take part in various Gunnery ranges. They'll also complete advisor specific training at Fort Polk, La. This includes advisor skill training, language training, COIN, culture training, working with an interpreter and Key leader engagement training. Prior to deploying, they'll complete their culminating training exercise at the National Training Center, Calif.

The SFA AT concept was created to support continued efforts to prevent terrorism and insurgency originating in Afghanistan. SFA AT are security forces assistant teams tasked with providing mentorship and training to help enable the Afghan National Security Force to conduct more effective intelligence and tactical operations and to prevent terrorism and insurgency. Successes in Afghanistan allow for transition from the comprehensive COIN strategy to an increased focus on training and mentoring with the ANSF. A key component of this strategy is our Army's ability to provide training and mentoring of the ANSF using SFA AT.

Army doctrine defines security force assistance (SFA) as the unified action to generate, employ, and sustain local, host-nation, or regional security forces in support of a legitimate authority.

A new concept and announced only last winter, the first SFA AT were comprised of active-duty Soldiers. The first SFA AT began training rotation in mid-January 2012 and deployed in the spring. The second iteration is slated for the fall of 2012.