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JBLM will host new SFAB

5th Security Force Assistance Brigade expected to activate in 2019

Soldiers of the Army’s new Security Force Assistance Brigade featuring a unique brown beret. Photo credit: U.S. Army

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The Department of the Army announced late last week that the new 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) will be stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"We are honored that the Army has chosen JBLM to host one of the active-duty SFABs here," said Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky, I Corps and JBLM commander, in a press release. "JBLM is the premier military installation in the Pacific Northwest and possesses the needed facilities and strategic location that enables rapid deployment."

Army officials pointed out that the decision to locate an SFAB at JBLM was based on factors such as the projected time to activate and train an SFAB, the presence of senior grade personnel to lead the unit and facility costs.

The goal is to build six SFABs: five will be in the active-duty Army, and one will be in the National Guard.

Presently, the 1st SFAB is stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, and is deployed in Afghanistan. The 2nd SFAB is stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and is nearing activation. The 3rd SFAB will be at Fort Hood, Texas; the 4th will be stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Army officials said they want to build the SFABs to take on the responsibility of the Pentagon's "train, advise and assist" missions throughout the world.

"My view right now is that with regard to irregular warfare, we're going to be engaged in that indefinitely," explained Army Secretary Mark Esper in a Stars and Stripes interview.

The reduced American military presence worldwide -- coupled with an increase in state and non-state threats -- has forced the Army to reconsider its strategies.

Part of the "building partners capacity," theory, the SFABs will allow the U.S. to maintain regional engagement without overbearing the host nation.

The idea for SFABs first appeared in a 2007 paper entitled Institutionalizing Adaptation: It's Time for a Permanent Army Advisor Corps, written by Lt. Col. John Nagl.

"The most important military component of the Long War will not be the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we enable and empower our allies to fight with us," he wrote.

This idea grew, and the force behind the creation of SFABs is Gen. Mark Milley, the Army's chief of staff. He contends that the Army needs teams of soldiers outside of the special operations community to train partner forces.

"There will always be a need to help build allied or partnered forces, and the SFAB will take on this critical mission and allow brigade combat teams to concentrate on preparing for potential full-spectrum combat operations," wrote Lt. Col. Scot Keith, I Corps Public Affairs deputy, in a press release.

The 5th SFAB will comprise about 800 soldiers from various branches who volunteer to serve. The unit is expected to activate sometime in 2019. Selected soldiers will be held to a higher physical standard, demonstrate proven leadership skills and complete training at the new Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning.

"I think we'll see a much better advisor capability built out of these brigades," concluded Milley.

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