For two days, twice a day, nearly a thousand soldiers filled the seats of Howze Auditorium to hear from the Army mobile recruiting team for the new Security Force Assistance Brigades on April 24 and 25.
The recruiting team is currently looking to fill the second and third of the proposed six brigades — five active duty Army and one National Guard. The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade was activated in 2017 at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was recently deployed for a train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan. The second will be located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The location for the remaining brigades has not yet been determined, although Secretary of the Army Mark Esper didn’t rule out Fort Hood as one of the posts an SFAB could be located during his recent visit to post.
“The Security Force Assistance Brigade is comprised of a bunch of members who are selected on their competence level, rank structure and certain (military occupational specialties),” said Sgt. Maj. Joseph Tinker, the operations sergeant major for 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade. “They train, advise and assist, enabling and accompanying operations with our allied partners and our host nations.”
The current mission is to fill both the 2nd and 3rd brigades with approximately 800 soldiers each, he said. The brigade’s need experienced soldiers in a number of specialties who are capable of operating in small teams in austere environments with little to no supervision. These specialized brigades will all operate in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, which primarily includes the Middle East.
“This is going to help the overall readiness of the Army,” Tinker said. “The way the ... mission has taken place in the past, they would take two or three brigades and pull the senior leadership to build a security force assistance team. That would take brigade combat teams out of the fight for up to three years at a time by the time they were trained up, deployed, came back and were built back up again.”
While not quite Special Forces, the standards to join one of the brigades are pretty high, said one of the recruiters, Master Sgt. Jeffrey Jacops, during the brief. Candidates must perform at least a 240 score on their physical fitness test, maintain a secret security clearance and have demonstrated excellence in their past performances.
The minimum ranks eligible to apply are captain through colonel for officers and specialists eligible for promotion to sergeant and above for enlisted. All who qualify receive a one-time bonus of $5,000, an additional $75 monthly special pay and advanced opportunities for promotions.
“(The presentation) was pretty quick and to the point,” said Sgt. Trino Zuniga, a logistics clerk with 62nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion. “It’s very similar to (Special Forces) briefs — anyone who wants to be in the ‘family’ it’s the same thing. It’s like, ‘this is who we are, this is what we do, anyone who wants more information then come see us.’”
Zuniga said he spent most of his career as an infantryman, but an injury required he change his military occupational skill. The ability to join one of the SFABs would give him the opportunity to fill a combat-related job slot.
“Here’s an opportunity to perhaps get back on the line again while still being a 92A (logistician),” he said. “I’ll get to do more combat-oriented advising and training. Connect with my team of advisors, connect with the team we are advising and training and at the end of the day, hopefully the result is I’m on the battleground with them running door to door, doing what I know how to do.”
Zuniga already has three deployments under his belt — one in Iraq, two in Afghanistan — but wants to do more, he said.
“I always tell my wife that I won’t be happy unless I leave (the Army) with at least five deployments,” he said. “I don’t want to retire with anything less than five.”
People with experience are just what the SFABs need, said Tinker.
“We need someone ... who can operate on small teams in austere environments with minimal supervision and minimal guidance,” he said. “With just a goal to be accomplished and can get it done.”
One of the perks of an SFAB is that if the Army finds itself needing to grow by a new combat brigade, the leadership structure is already in place with an SFAB to rapidly stand up a new brigade combat team, Tinker said.
“With the leadership already in place, filling the brigade with the soldiers required out of basic training and (advanced individual training) in all the different MOSs ... it’s easier to add soldiers and train them than it is to try and train the leaders and then add the soldiers as well,” he said. “It’s purpose built that way.”
One special training all soldiers chosen to fill the SFABs will receive is Survive, Evade, Resist and Escape training due to the locations the soldiers will operate in, Tinker said. The soldiers will also spend more time shooting on the small arms weapon ranges.
“We’re looking for soldiers who are committed to the Army,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Harris, the senior enlisted advisor slated for the 3rd SFAB command team. “We’re looking for noncommissioned officers complete with their current assignment and time to be able to bring their experience they’ve learned over their time in the Army to advise and assist our local national partners in the host nations.”
Harris said he’s looking for soldiers who can think out of the box, hold the standard and have maturity. They need to be technical experts in their fields in order to spend more time on advanced training.
“Using second-time leaders to come in this environment, this organization, will greatly enhance the capabilities of commanders,” he said.
More information on requirements to join one of the newly-forming brigades can be found at www.facebook.com/SFABRecruiting. The Facebook page also contains contact information to recruiters for additional questions, such as which military specialties are eligible to join. All forms required to volunteer can be found at www.armyreenlistment.com/sfab.html.
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