FORT POLK, La., Jan. 17, 2018 — The convoy of American Soldiers and their Afghan counterparts came to a sudden halt as a group of Afghan villagers crowded the road. With raised voices, the villagers claimed that U.S. forces had attacked their livestock, and vehemently stated that they would not let the convoy pass until they received compensation for their damaged property.
The Soldiers, members of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, used their specialized combat advising training to work with their Afghan National Army partners to effectively negotiate a solution that was amenable to the villagers.
After this, the American and Afghan soldiers moved onto their final objective of seizing a government building that had been taken over by oppositional forces — all part of a simulated training scenario at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana, Jan. 13.
The 1st SFAB Soldiers, headquartered in Fort Benning, Georgia, will deploy for the first time to provide training and advising assistance to Afghan National Defense Security Forces in the spring of 2018. The unit is the Army’s new permanent, additive force structure developed and deployed as a solution to the Army’s enduring advise and assist requirement in support of the defense strategy.
The situational training exercise in Fort Polk is part of a month-long rotation to polish their skills as teams working together to accomplish theater objectives by training, advising, assisting, accompanying and enabling allied and partnered indigenous security forces before their deployment. Other Soldiers participated in the training by serving as actors who role-played as Afghan villagers, soldiers, and oppositional forces.
“I think this is a great experience because (this is) a new team, new people; we have to learn how to overcome with what we have,” said Capt. Justin Alexander, a team leader with a combat advisor team, 1st Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.
Different than typical JRTC rotations in the Army, Soldiers were expected to take on an advisory role for the Afghan National Army to be able to resolve situations rather than take a hands-on approach. A normal JRTC rotation, Alexander said, has a set mission, while the 1st SFAB learns their mission as they go through the exercise.
“ANA were in front; ANA were leading,” said Capt. Cody McBroom, a team leader for a combat advisor team, 1st Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. “ANA did everything. As far as tactics, the basics of the infantry — shoot, move and communicate — (the ANA) did it all. It was all on them.”
McBroom said the exercises at JRTC helped the 1st SFAB Soldiers come together and work as a team by learning from their strengths and deficiencies as they conducted the missions.
“It allows us to see where our deficiencies are on understanding the battalion roles and functions,” McBroom said. “I think it will make everyone more well-rounded.”