Army's newest security assistance brigade completes first three deployments

By Ethan Sterenfeld / February 24, 2021 at 1:20 PM

The Army's 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade has already completed training missions in Thailand, India and Indonesia, and it plans to work with more countries, the brigade's commander said Feb. 24.

About one-third of the brigade's 816 soldiers should be deployed at a time once the brigade is fully operational, Brig. Gen. Curt Taylor told reporters during a media roundtable.

"We believe that building trust over time with the armies of the Pacific will lead to greater access, presence and influence," Taylor said. "We have a pretty robust exercise schedule throughout the Pacific that our conventional forces have been involved in for some time. And we have seen, as our role has evolved, that we become an essential precursor to those exercises."

The Army said last year that each security force assistance brigade would follow a regional deployment model and focus on partner countries in a particular region. The 5th SFAB, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, is responsible for the Indo-Pacific region.

When they trained with India's army, soldiers from the 5th SFAB focused on strategies for artillery and unmanned aerial vehicles, Taylor said. Indian soldiers also taught lessons in high-altitude warfare.

The brigade trains other countries for "conventional force operations," so they do not conflict with the mission of the Army Special Forces, Taylor said. The Special Forces, also called the Green Berets, specialize in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare training.

The 5th SFAB will focus on other topics, such as supply chain management, maintenance, defensive operations and operating at echelons, he said.

"These are kind of hard-army conventional skills that we've hired people specifically for their mastery of," Taylor said. "So, if there's a particular competency in the SFAB, it's those conventional skill sets that we believe are essential to large-scale combat operations."

Because the brigade includes officers and noncommissioned officers with a range of specialties, it can provide training on many different topics, said Lt. Col. Anthony Gore, a battalion commander within the brigade. Soldiers in the brigade will have the chance to regularly learn new skills when they are not deployed.

"Depending on what is coordinated with the nation and the potential future operations the nation is looking at . . . our leaders in our formations can take the time and use the opportunity to train up on those specific operations, those skills, and then bring that to the partnership," Gore said.

In addition, there is a "large appetite" for medical advising throughout the Indo-Pacific region, said Maj. Kimberley Maxwell, the brigade's field surgeon and medical advising team leader. She said countries are particularly interested in public health and disaster relief efforts because of the pandemic.