Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The 2nd SFAB Is Gearing Up For Its New Advise-And-Assist Mission In Afghanistan
For most of the past year, officials have been building a new unit at Fort Bragg.
They’ve welcomed new soldiers to post, moved into repurposed buildings and received new equipment.
But the most important building blocks for the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade were laid out amid Fort Bragg’s sprawling training areas. That’s when the soldiers of the 2nd SFAB came together for the first time as advisor teams working amid the types of combat scenarios they could face in Afghanistan next year.
“This was our first time together as a team,” said Capt. Zachery Long, who leads Combat Advisor Team 2213 in 2nd Battalion, 2nd SFAB. “We had never worked with each other before.”
As part of a live fire exercise, advisor teams were thrust into increasingly complex scenarios and forced to adapt on the fly to an ever-changing environment.
“It was definitely like building an airplane in flight,” Long said.
Team 2213 is comprised of seasoned soldiers from a variety of backgrounds.
There’s Long and his team sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class James Lewis, and nine other soldiers who come from backgrounds in the infantry, signal, artillery, logistics, medical and maintenance fields.
Most joined the 2nd SFAB in June or July, officials said. But they had been involved in individual and occupation-specific training prior to the October exercises at Fort Bragg.
That training, the first in which the teams operated as a cohesive unit, was meant to prepare the brigade for its biggest test yet – a rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, early next year.
At JRTC, the brigade will be validated ahead of its spring 2019 Afghanistan deployment, which the Army announced earlier this year.
Long said his team will be ready.
“They want to be here and they’ve proven they deserve to be here,” he said.
U.S. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade, engage targets providing suppressive fire as part of a live-fire exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Oct. 24, 2018U.S. Army/Spc. Andrew McNeil
At Fort Bragg, 2nd SFAB teams practiced mounted and dismounted patrols alongside partner forces.
They responded to roadside bombs and quickly evacuated wounded troops. But observers worked to ensure the training iterations did not become too repetitive or predictable.
As one advisor team made its way down a thin dirt trail lined by pine trees, an observer noted the soldiers brought only one combat litter to carry an injured soldier.
The trail led to a berm where the soldiers knew they would make a stand against an unseen enemy before calling in an artillery strike and moving back to their vehicles.
Based on earlier iterations of the training, the soldiers knew that one of their own would be injured in the attack.
Observers selected one of the largest soldiers on the team to be a victim. And then, as soldiers took turns carrying the solder back to the vehicle, added an unexpected wrench into the training.
Another soldier was given a mock injury and needed to be carried, without a litter, back to the vehicles.
All the while, the soldiers had to provide their own security.
“There are no short cuts,” an observer said.
Long said the training isn’t supposed to be easy.
Under the pressure of a combat scenario, he said, leaders can get a feel for the makeup of their team, learn who can be trusted and identify areas of improvement.
“It’s a shared hardship,” he said.
"There are no short cuts"
Lt. Col. David Painter, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd SFAB, said teams visibly transformed amid the live fire exercise.
“It’s shocking to watch a team evolve,” he said. “Shocking in a good way.”
Lewis, the team sergeant, said each of the soldiers in the SFAB has been assessed and selected.
They come from the best the Army has to offer, he said. And that shortens the learning curve needed to prepare for their deployment.
“There’s enthusiasm and raw talent,” Lewis said. “It’s exciting to be here.”
Lewis said the team learned from each training repetition and, at the same time, built the confidence it will need at JRTC and in Afghanistan.
“Everybody learned very quickly,” he said. “We’re much more familiar with each other.”
Each combat advisor team will include a mix of military occupational specialties.
But the soldiers also understand they cannot specialize. In the weeks and months ahead of their deployment, each will be cross-trained in skills not typical to their specific jobs.
“You have to be trained on everything,” said Staff Sgt. Jack Lincoln, an infantry soldier. “You have to get out of your comfort zone.”
That means that each soldier on the team must be able to fill in and help with communications, fire support and vehicle maintenance.
“You can’t just be infantry focused,” said Long.
U.S. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade, stage their Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and conduct a briefing as part of a live-fire exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Oct. 24, 2018.U.S. Army/Spc. Andrew McNeil
The brigade has adopted the motto “Everyone fights.” And to that end, soldiers must be prepared to step in if one of their teammates is injured or unavailable.
That means Sgt. Desja Williams is leading training on how to make repairs to the team’s MaxxPro armored vehicles. And Sgt. Tyler Twigg is hosting medical training.
The training will ultimately make the team better, Long said. But it also will prepare soldiers for training Afghan troops in similar skills.
“Part of how we prepare for the deployment is teaching each other,” he said.
The 2nd SFAB is only the second unit of its kind in the U.S. Army and is comprised of about 800 soldiers.
The 1st SFAB, based at Fort Benning, Georgia, recently returned from Afghanistan. And the Army is standing up four other SFABs, to be located at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Carson, Colorado; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and one in the National Guard.
The new units are part of a fundamental change to how the Army conducts long-standing missions in countries like Afghanistan.
The units are smaller and more specialized than a brigade combat team, which includes about 4,500 soldiers. And its members are assessed and selected before training to join their unit.
Officials believe the units will free up traditional brigade combat teams to train for near-peer fights instead of advise-and-assist missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
©2018 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.
The Air Force is investigating whether an airman smoked weed at a missile alert facility for nuclear Minuteman ICBMs
The Air Force is investigating reports that an airman consumed marijuana while assigned to one of the highly-sensitive missile alert facility (MAF) responsible for overseeing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.