WASHINGTON | Preparing for high-end warfare against a peer adversary and growing partner capacity are two missions that require two distinct approaches, according to Brig. Gen. Brian Mennes, director of force management, G-3/5/7.
Mennes spoke on these topics Friday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy forum, “Rethinking Security Force Assistance in the Middle East.”
The National Defense Strategy lays out the importance of growing partner capacity through train, advise, and assist missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world, Mennes said. This priority laid the groundwork for the creation of security force assistance brigades -- the first of which is now deployed in Afghanistan.
The aim of creating SFABs is to free up other brigade combat teams for the high-end fight, Mennes said. While training for the high-end fight in a BCT is essential, he emphasized that does not mean the mission being done by an SFAB is any less important.
SFAB Selection Process
Soldiers in the ranks of sergeant and above are encouraged to volunteer for duty in an SFAB, Mennes said, adding that service in an SFAB will help make Soldiers competitive for promotions.
Mennes said when filling SFAB units, the Army is looking for Soldiers who are the “best of the best,” have successfully served in combat, are technically and tactically competent, and “are self-actualized in their basic tasks.”
Candidates for SFAB must go before a selection board, he said, but even before they get to the board, they are screened by their chain of command to ensure they are suitable for the task.
The screening process ensures Soldiers are completely deployable and without discipline problems, he said. Additionally, Soldiers must be rated in the top 75 percent of their evaluation reports and they must be in the top 80 percent in physical fitness.
Some of the other desired qualities are patience, empathy and humility, Mennes said. Those are attributes needed to bond with soldiers from other armies.
Once selected for an SFAB, Soldiers can expect to go to Fort Benning, Georgia, where they will study at the newly created Military Advisor Training Academy. There, they will learn some of the language and culture of the host nation, he said. They will learn negotiation skills as well.
While the primary role of the SFAB is to do advise and assist work, a secondary role of that type of unit is to expand, if necessary, into a full-sized brigade combat team. Should additional BCTs be needed to support armed conflict, Mennes said, SFABs have been purposely structured to expand and fill that role — they would just need to be infilled with junior Soldiers.
The Army plans four more SFABs in the regular Army, plus one more in the Army National Guard, Mennes said.
Lastly, Mennes said that the 1st SFAB, now deployed to Afghanistan for the first time, has been welcomed there by U.S. Central Command. He said he envisions other combatant commands will see the value of the 1st SFAB in Afghanistan, which will lay the groundwork for other successful SFAB deployments in other parts of the world.