Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) (pronounced: S Fab) are specialised United States (US) Army units formed to train, advise, assist, enable and accompany operations with allied and partner nations. SFAB’s are intended to reduce the burden of such operations on conventionally-organised Brigade Combat Teams (BCT’s), allowing BCT’s to focus on fighting near-peer threats.
Designed on the model of a standard infantry brigade combat team, SFAB’s are composed of roughly 800 personnel, primarily commissioned and non-commissioned officers selected from regular Army units and given additional training at the Military Advisor Training Academy (MATA) at Fort Benning, Georgia.
The British Army’s Specialised Infantry Group performs a similar role.
The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade was the first SFAB raised in the US Army. Based in Fort Benning, Georgia the 1st SFAB is made up of the first graduates of MATA and are under the command of Colonel (OF-5) (now Brigadier General, OF-6) Scott Jackson and Command Sergeant Major Christopher Gunn. On 08 February 2018 the 1st SFAB held its official activation ceremony at the National Infantry Museum on Fort Benning, Georgia. The Army plans to raise a total of six SFABs, five of which will be in the active duty Army, and one in the Army National Guard. The Indiana Army National Guard is providing the headquarters for the newly designated 54th SFAB. 1st Battalion is being organised by the Georgia Army National Guard. Two battalions are being organised by the Florida Army National Guard, the 3rd Squadron, 54th Cavalry, and the 2nd Infantry Battalion.
On 18 May 2018, the Army announced that the Security Force Assistance Command (SFAC) will be established at Fort Bragg. This division-level Command, led by a Brigadier General, will oversee the Army’s six Security Force Assistance Brigades, as well as the MATA for SFAB training and oversight. SFAC and 2nd SFAB were activated on 03 December 2018 at Fort Bragg; Brigadier General Mark Landes and Brigadier General Donn Hill are the Commanding Generals of SFAC and 2nd SFAB, respectively.
By 2020, the SFABs are to include missions to US Central Command, US Southern Command, US Indo-Pacific Command, and US Africa Command. According to a US military journal, “such specialised security force assistance units is a stopgap measure that frees up more resources for conventional warfare, allowing the rest of the US military to focus on combined-arms training and equipping for conflict and competition with China and Russia.”
The mission of the SFAB is to carry out train, advise, and assist (TAA) missions overseas with foreign nation military partners. SFABs are the US Army’s latest solution to providing dedicated and trained personnel to relieve the Brigade Combat Teams from performing combat advisory missions. Before SFABs, the combat advisory role was filled by NCOs and officers detailed from the Brigade Combat Teams to train host nation military forces; leaving critical leadership billets unfilled. The introduction of the SFAB concept is intended to relieve the Brigade Combat Teams of the combat advisory mission and enable them to focus on their primary combat mission. Operating in units with roughly 800 personnel, SFABs are designed to be versatile and deployable worldwide and are made up exclusively of non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers however E-4s with promotable status are accepted and receive promotion to sergeant (E-5) upon graduation of MATA.
SFABs are conventional units composed of volunteers recruited from units across the Regular Army. Volunteers undergo a two-day assessment at Fort Benning which evaluates a candidate’s physical fitness, decision-making, problem solving, and communications skills as well as their ethics and morals. All SFAB volunteers then attend MATA training. Trainees may receive additional language training, culture training, foreign weapons training and medical training, among other topics. The SFABs are equipped with secure, but unclassified communications gear, utilising T2C2 (Transportable Tactical Command Communications) systems, a novel type of backpack satellite voice & data terminals. CECOM is augmenting this gear with vehicle-mounted, and hand-carried radios.
In March 2020, Logistics Advisor Team 1610, 6th Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade delivered a Vehicle Maintenance and Recovery Course to the Senegalese Army in Dakar, Senegal. This was 1st SFAB’s first mission in USARAF’s area of responsibility.
The existence of SFABs are part of a broader trend by the US military to specialise in the provision of military aid and assistance to “weak states” in trying to stand up capable security institutions in the host-nation. However, it is unclear if the SFABs will be able to overcome the “three SFA traps” of trying to create an effective military in a recipient state that cannot afford an army, views their army as a threat, or uses that army to consolidate power and settle scores with rivals.
SFAB Organisational Structure
The exact organisation of a SFAB depends on its role, as noted in the below table.
|Infantry SFAB||Armoured SFAB||Advising Team SFAB|
The SFAB Recruiting and Retention Team was formed to provide SFAB leader development briefs and recruit Army-wide Soldiers and leaders for SFAB opportunities. Eligible Soldiers volunteer for SFAB assignments by completing two SFAB Volunteer forms DA Form 4187 (Personnel Request) and SF 600 (Medical Screening) and e-mailing both to the Human Resources Command (HRC) SFAB Team for screening.
On 15 May 2018, Army officials released new guidance on the Army’s Selective Retention Bonus (SRB) Programme, which includes first-ever bonuses up to $52,000 for those who reenlist for critical SFAB positions.
SFAB units include:
- Security Force Assistance Command: headquarters (HQ) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
- 1st SFAB: HQ at Fort Benning, Georgia.
- 2nd SFAB: Fort Bragg.
- 3rd SFAB: Fort Hood, Texas.
- 4th SFAB: Fort Carson, Colorado.
- 5th SFAB: Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
- 54th SFAB: National Guard.
- Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC): Indiana.
- 1st Battalion: Georgia.
- 2nd & 3rd Battalions: Florida.
- 4th Battalion: Texas.
- 5th Battalion: Ohio.
- 6th Battalion: Illinois.