“We’re a startup, which, is exciting if you are in the business world, but it is also exciting if you are in the Army,” explained Col. Donn H. Hill, commander, 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade.
Hill has served as an Army officer for 28 years and took command of 2nd SFAB in January, transitioning from his previous position serving as deputy chief of staff for operations to the XVIII Airborne Corps.
Command Sgt. Maj Ken Killingsworth, 2nd SFAB, with 26 years in the Army, echoes Hill’s excitement.
“I am honored to get the opportunity to be the brigade sergeant major of 2nd SFAB, as every other Soldier is excited to be a part of history because that is what we are doing here,” Killingsworth said.
2nd SFAB arrived at Fort Bragg in early January and has begun to establish their footprint and place within an already busy installation and has been recruiting and training their future Combat Advisor Teams.
“This is Fort Bragg, you have first-class facilities, great opportunities for training and an excellent reputation for preparing Soldiers, and the Fayetteville community is always there standing right with Soldiers,” Killingsworth said.
Hill agreed, “It’s a great culture, not just Fort Bragg but the local community itself.”
What is the SFAB?
“This is a fundamental change in how the Army is looking to address the challenge of advising and assisting partner nations in foreign security forces,” explains Hill.
There is little new about the advise and assist mission set. However, the activation of the 1st SFAB at Fort Benning, Georgia, in February of this year and the current staffing of 2nd SFAB, here at Fort Bragg, indicates a change in the execution of advise and assist missions.
“The way we are going to do it now, with this force structure change, is establishing standing organizations that are purpose-built from the ground up to be security force advise and assist units,” explained Hill.
Currently a drain on the warfighter ranks, advise and assist missions draw from brigade combat team numbers impacting readiness.
By creating a purpose-built force of Soldiers, who are considered subject matter experts in their field, the change in Army force structure will allow BCTs to focus on the warfighter mission without drawing on their strength to meet advise and assist commitments.
“Our formation is built to take the weight off the BCTs so they can focus on those high-end contingencies that are no less difficult to train for and prepare for. They need to be able to execute at a moment’s notice, the fight tonight mentality,” Hill said.
How is the SFAB different?
SFABs, fully manned, have approximately 800 Soldiers; about 5,000 Soldiers man a traditional BCT.
SFABs are among the few volunteer units in an all-volunteer Army and according to Killingsworth that has a significant impact on morale and motivation.
“If you went to work and everybody wanted to be at work, how more enjoyable would your job be?” asked Killingsworth. “I mean that’s what we’re dealing with every day. Soldiers that are taking initiative that are hungry that are excited about the mission.”
SFAB Soldiers are also is in a unique position, SFAB is a clean slate.
Incoming members of the unit do not encounter and enforce training schedules; they helped to build them.
“That’s pretty exciting. When you take command of an organization, or you get to an organization they have a training calendar,” Hill said.
Soldiers arriving at 2nd SFAB get to build these training schedules.
“Build me a plan,” are Hill’s instructions to incoming 2nd SFAB Soldiers.
“The slate is clean you lay it out, and this is my left and right limit that I want you to operate on, and they are attacking it,” he said.
Setting the standard and creating the framework for a unit is a rare opportunity.
“I don’t think there are that many leaders that have had the opportunity to build something straight from the ground up,” Killingsworth said.
To accomplish their mission, SFAB Soldiers will also receive unique training.
SFAB Soldiers receive approximately one month of foundational training at the Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning, Georgia. In addition to MATA, Soldiers will also receive language, negotiation, mediation and culture training. They will learn about communicating through an interpreter and how to plan a leadership engagement.
“Most Soldiers, sergeants and staff sergeants, will never have the chance to be exposed to that, except for in a Security Force Assistance Brigade,” Killingsworth said.
Are you SFAB material?
SFAB leaders identified a list of combat advisor key attributes.
An advisor must — be disciplined and mature, have sound judgment, take the initiative, be cool under pressure, have a tolerance for ambiguity, keep an open mind, be empathetic and situationally aware, have patience, and be morally straight — to be the right fit for an SFAB.
“Every Soldier in the Army regardless of military occupational specialty … raised their right hand because they wanted to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” Killingsworth said. “Those same volunteers are volunteering again because they want to be a part of something new, something that has a difficult mission.
They want to set the standard and take the lead for future Security Force Assistance Brigades tomorrow.”
Hill and Killingsworth feel that SFAB is a game changer, something new, and those who get involved are invited to, in their words, contribute to “making history.”
“We will go where the Army wants us to go, when the Army wants us to go there,” said Hill. “People don’t volunteer for organizations that are going to do something, they volunteer for organizations that are going to go somewhere and do something and make history.”
Note: SFAB selection involves a two-day selection process held at Fort Bragg, including a range of boards to ascertain the quality of Soldiers applying and their level of expertise within their field. 2nd SFAB is in need of Soldiers from a range of MOSs, with a critical need for certain specialties. For information on current the recruitment needs of 2nd SFAB, visit www.ArmyReenlistment.com/sfab.html or call the SFAB recruiting team by phone, at 570-9975/6167/5131/5159/5058/5056.