This fall the Army is standing up a new brigade that will deploy around the world to train foreign troops, and they're looking for about 500 seasoned officers and NCOs to man it.
Those soldiers will report for training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October, according to officials, where they'll learn to train soldiers from partner nations and eventually deploy around the world.
"In addition to being a volunteer, we want the best of the best," Brig. Gen. David Lesperance, the deputy commanding general of armor at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Army Times on May 2. "Top-level talent coming out of key and development assignments."
Specifically, the Army is looking for former squad leaders and platoon sergeants who are looking to expand their experience before likely heading off to their next school.
They will get to pick their follow-on assignments, then-Human Resources Command boss Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands told Army Times in April, and pocket a $5,000 bonus.
After six weeks in training, they are expected to spend two or three years as part of the brigade, according to officials.
"There will be some in-classroom instruction, but the majority of the training will be situational training exercises," Lesperance said. "Hands-on, performance-oriented training with a lot of contracted regional training partners, that allow us to make sure they get some type of immersion into the correct languages and the types of tasks they will do."
The Army hopes to have six regionally aligned brigades with expertise in different parts of the world by 2022.
"Really, that training is to harness all the good experiences they have operationally and then really teach them how to assess a host nation’s security force and then develop – in partnership with our security force partners – a training plan that increases their readiness," he said.
To qualify, soldiers need to score at least an 85 on the Defense Language Aptitude Battery for primary advisers, score a minimum of 240 or 70 points in each event on the Army Physical Fitness Test, have a secret security clearance and be in a deployable status, according to a May 18 releasefrom the Army.
NCOs without joes
The SFAB is designed to take the skeletal brigade model the Army has been using to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan on train, advise and assist missions and turn it into its own entity, rather than stripping leadership from a brigade combat team and degrading its war fighting readiness.
That means, when they are stood up, SFABs will resemble either armored or infantry brigade combat teams — complete with staff, intelligence, logistics and other support elements — but for the most part without junior enlisted soldiers.
It will be a cultural shift, Lesperance said, but the SFAB is ideal for NCOs who love the coaching aspect of their job.
Those leaders that go out and do those missions by and large enjoy seeing and assessing, and being a part of that team in another country and watching that team grow," he said.
The SFAB will meet the foreign partner armies where they are, teach them how to master the equipment they already have, and bring a small complement of U.S. materiel along — likely some up-armored Humvees and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles from excess stock, Lesperance said.
"We’re not a new equipment fielding and training team," he said. "This would be specifically existent combat formations with our partner nations, where they have asked us to come in, assess, train, advise and assist, build their capacity higher than it is."
The deployment cycle for the SFAB has not been hammered out yet, he added, but keeping proficient and mastering their region culturally and linguistically will take up most of the brigade's time.
"Not only will they have to retain their combined arms operations — and by the way, that’s a full time job — on top of that, language training," Lesperance said. "On top of that, all the Army mandatory training that occurs in a BCT will still occur in an assistance brigade. On top of that, they’ll continue to hone their adviser skills that they learned institutionally at home station events."
Taking junior enlisted out of the equation will free up some of a squad leader's time, he said, but training will fill that vacuum.
"When you add the adviser tasks on top of the combined arms tasks that they must be able to maintain, that’s going to be a full-time job," he said.
In the future, leaders see an SFAB rotation as another kind of broadening assignment that will make a soldier more attractive for promotions and key billets.
Human Resources Command wants soldiers to know that the brigades are not seen as a collateral duty that could take a soldier off their career track.
"Army leaders at the highest levels are committed to making the SFABs a premier assignment," Maj. Nick Clemente, a strategic planner with HRC's readiness branch, said in a release. "They understand the negative association with Transition Teams and the [Afghanistan-Pakistan] Hands program and are taking proactive steps to ensure that SFABs are different."
For now, BCTs continue to cover the train and advise mission in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but Lesperance said that as soon as the SFAB is ready, it will be deployed.
"It’s not a matter of if, it’s just when," he said. "And I think everybody knows that."
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.