National Guard SFA AT Tests Responsiveness, Flexibility, and Agility
Camp Shelby, MISS. - More than 500 National Guard Soldiers recently completed the last step of their mobilization training in preparation for their upcoming Security Forces Assistance Advisor Team deployment to Afghanistan. The training wrapped up a monumental effort by both the National Guard Soldiers and their trainers.
The 47 SFA AT teams, comprised of Soldiers from Hawaii's 29th Infantry Brigade Combat team and Texas' 56th IBCT, began their mobilization training at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Miss., in August. The recent intense culminating training exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin Calif., tested each team's individual and team advisor and survivability skills. The 158th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, designed the training to replicate the conditions and missions the SFA AT members will face in Afghanistan.
"This 14-day training compressed a lot of training into that time," said First Army Division East Deputy Commanding General of Operations, Brig. Gen. Steven D. Huber. "It is meant to capture as much of the deployment experience as possible."
"This has truly been a collective effort," said 158th Infantry Brigade Commander, Col. Christopher S. Forbes. "From First Army to Division East down to the 158th being the lead Brigade, this SFA AT training mission could not have been done without the help from teams coming together to replicate a brigade headquarters and to continue to mentor, embedded with these teams."
The 158th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, mobilizes, trains, and validates Reserve component Soldiers to meet all deployment requirements for worldwide missions. The 158th normally trains brigade-size elements for traditional security forces missions. However, for this SFA AT deployment, the brigade simultaneously trained 47 teams, each with individual missions. To replicate conditions and command structure in Afghanistan, First Army reached out to Forces Command for additional support.
"During RSOI, the units receive, in-process and prepare for training," said Capt. Jason Shuff, 2nd of 351st Regiment Battalion executive officer at Camp Shelby, Miss. "Staging personnel and establishing a command is a large part of completing the mission.
"The STX allows the units to train on systems and standard operating procedures, assess unit competency in battle drills and mission essential task lists. During FoF, the SFA AT teams train in an OEF-replicated environment in order to prepare for their forward mission. At the conclusion of the training, the SFA AT teams go through regeneration so they recover from the operations, reset from training and complete final preparations for deployment," he finished.
"Our soldiers found the training here at NTC invaluable," said Staff Sgt. Nick Terry, an infantryman with the 56th IBCT from Lufkin, Tx. "This was truly a culmination of our training at Camp Shelby."
"This training is completely different from my previous deployments," Terry continued. "It's different every time. It's different this time because of the SFA AT mission."
Throughout the scenario-driven training, the Guardsman from Texas and Hawaii used their advisor specific skills during engagements with community members. They also reacted to opposing forces attacks.
"The fact that they have the role players here has really helped," said Terry. "On the (mobilization) platform, we are limited on the number of interpreters and role players and the space we can go. Having the enabler here to play the Battle Space Owner (BSO) has been good, as well."
"The more than 500 Soldiers returned to Shelby with a great ability to adapt, move, and communicate," said Forbes. "These SFA AT teams are now more prepared to succeed in the mission as they work the mission in Afghanistan."
"It's a huge success story that shows the real flexibility and capability of First Army and its NCOs and officers," Forbes continued. "It's a first rate team, and in my opinion the training forces choice."
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.
"The Security Force Assistance Team model is a game-changing approach to fielding an effective fighting force, according to commanders on the ground. We must build the capabilities of Afghan Army and police, and ensure they have the embedded trainers and mentors needed to assist them as they take security lead," said Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta in a recent statement.
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.
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. This is the second iteration of SFA AT deployments.
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