5th SFAB roars to life during Exercise Lethal Vanguard

First major individual training event at JBLM for Army’s newest SFAB

By U.S. Army Capt. William Leasure, 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade on March 5, 2020

(Photo: The 6th Battalion, 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade Intelligence Officer, Capt. Nathan Osuna, engages targets from a wall structure as part of a Known Distance range during Exercise Lethal Vanguard. Exercise Lethal Vanguard served as the first stage of an Advisor Marksmanship Program propelling Advisors beyond proficiency to weapon system mastery utilizing systematic repetition and familiarity.)

The 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade, "Vanguard," launched its first major individual training event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Jan. 27-Feb. 28, designed to build weapon system expertise within every Advisor assigned to the brigade.

Building this expertise required the Army's newest SFAB brigade to form a cadre of subject matter experts. The SFAB turned to the 75th Ranger Regiment and the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit to gain this tactical advantage.

"The 75th Ranger Regiment's marksmanship instructors and the AMU trained 60 of our Advisors to an extremely-high level," 5th SFAB Brigade Operations Officer Maj. Liam Walsh said. "Advisors who went through the training shot almost 3,000 M17 and M4 rounds a piece."

Fresh from this shooting combine, the newly-trained 5th SFAB Advisors served as trainers tasked with instructing the rest of the brigade these advanced marksmanship skills gleaned from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the AMU.

"Becoming an effective advisor starts with mastery of the fundamentals of modern warfare," 5th SFAB Commander Col. Curtis Taylor said. "This exercise provides our Advisors the time, resources, and first-rate coaching they need to move from proficiency to complete mastery of their personal weapons."

Advisors like Sgt. 1st Class Alex Gellman, an Infantryman and assistant team leader from 2nd Battalion, 5th SFAB, appreciate the training focus.

"A lot of times at ranges, we just shoot to qualify," Gellman said. "At 5th SFAB, qualifying isn't the end goal, we're going to shoot until we shoot expert, then shoot again to get faster, to be better and to get smaller shot groups. That's the philosophy of this event and it's a great one."

From physical therapist technicians to paralegals, every Advisor in the brigade fired on multiple weapon systems, not just their assigned weapon. The new M4 rifle qualification was a highlight for many of the Advisors.

"The new M4 rifle qualification is a great improvement over the previous one," 6th Battalion, 5th SFAB Intelligence Officer Capt. Nathan Osuna, said. "I like the fact that they included magazine changes, and the fluid way in which we had to change between firing positions."

Advisors at the 5th SFAB train to serve on small teams in environments with little to no immediate support. During Exercise Lethal Vanguard, the training demanded that Advisors be flexible enabling this autonomy.

"It's important for Advisors to not only be masters of their assigned equipment to ensure they can survive on their worst day in any environment," Walsh said. "But, it's also key for our ability to train Foreign Security Forces by truly mastering the basics."

Advisors like the Brigade Assistant Provost Marshall, Capt. Paige Lehman, understood the importance of mastering each weapon system.

"I'm not assigned the M17 pistol, but I'm out here familiarizing myself with it and then following through with an actual qualification," Lehman said. "If we have to use any of the weapons that the SFAB has, we're all familiarized with them now and better prepared to serve as Advisors."

The Brigade Information Technology Specialist, Cpl. Courtney Monroe, usually spends her days creating computer accounts and managing computer systems at the brigade headquarters. During Exercise Lethal Vanguard, that all changed.

"This is nothing like the previous unit I was assigned to where you zero your weapon, qualify and get off the range," Monroe said. "Here, I want to get back out there, even after I've qualified. It's fun and I consider it exciting."

The 5th SFAB continues to expand and plans to be ready for worldwide deployment in FY 2021. The SFAB is a volunteer organization and seeks experienced soldiers to join their team, if you're interested, contact the 5th SFAB recruiting team via email at 5thSFABRecruiting@gmail.com.