FORT IRWIN


Combat engineer turned combat advisor in Army's 1st SFAB

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Story by SSG Sierra A. Melendez on 10/23/2017
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Sgt. 1st Class Anderson Jimenez was serving as an observer controller at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California when he decided he needed something more challenging in his career.

"I called my branch manager and asked him what else was out there for me," said Jimenez. "I was content with where my career was going, but I knew I wanted something that would set me apart from my peers and challenge me in ways I never have before."

Jimenez said his branch manager mentioned a new unit the Army was forming that was the first of its kind.

"He said they were looking for competent and experienced Soldiers to serve in a unique unit that operated in smaller elements like they do in the special operations community," said Jimenez. "The more he started describing the assignment and the tasks associated with it, I knew this was something I had to take advantage of."

Within a few short months, Jimenez found himself at Fort Benning, Georgia assigned to the 815th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade a specialized unit designed specifically to conduct security force assistance operations to train, advise, assist, accompany and enable partner nation security forces in support of combatant command requirements worldwide.

Soldiers who make the decision to serve in this volunteer-only formation will be treated as specialized Soldiers, according to the Department of the Army's top leaders. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey described the SFAB as the DA's top priority during a recent visit to the unit.

Volunteers are a key aspect of this unique unit structure. Soldiers volunteer for assignment to the SFAB, which ensures that slots are filled by leaders who are motivated about the mission and what it entails.

Jimenez has found this piece of the puzzle to be a fundamental reason why his experience thus far has been nothing short of incredible.

"Everyone understands their role here," said Jimenez. "There's a level of maturity within our ranks that's different than those I have experienced in most conventional units I have served in."

While the structure of the SFAB is based on a traditional infantry brigade combat team with a brigade headquarters, two maneuver battalions, a cavalry squadron, an engineer battalion, an artillery battalion and a support battalion, the brigade is significantly smaller allowing for a deeper and more personal level of cohesion and camaraderie.

"Everyone here is a leader who has served in a similar capacity in your typical line unit," said Jimenez. "With us working in such small groups, we really have the opportunity to learn from each other's experiences and build on that to build more well-rounded teams."

The Military Advisor Training Academy provides individual training and leader development on security force assistance fundamentals to Soldiers assigned to security force assistance brigades.

"The MATA enhanced us with various types of training techniques that we can provide to our foreign counterparts," said Jimenez. "Similar to special operations, we were able to go through Survive, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training.

Advise and assist missions have been an enduring operation since the start of the Global War on Terror. The SFAB is an institutionalized response to this mission requirement.

Instead of decreasing brigade readiness by re-missioning its leadership for an advisory mission, the SFAB is dedicated force structure that is executing an adviser-specific training plan to prepare the unit for its mission.

"Advising our foreign partners requires us to think outside the box," said Jimenez. "Instead of focusing on teaching them our tactics, techniques and procedures, we will aid them in creating their own that are conducive to their environment and culture. It's not just challenging but gratifying as well."

While the 1st SFAB is headquartered in Fort Benning, Georgia, the Army will form five additional security force assistance brigades to meet the demand for the advise and assist mission. Jimenez urges Soldiers interested in the SFAB to contact their branch manager for more information.

"We're a part of history being the first SFAB," said Jimenez. "It has been nothing short of amazing so far. I'm a combat engineer first and foremost and that alone instills me with pride. Now as a combat advisor, I know my efforts will have an enduring impact and really make a difference."

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