"Our host nation security forces have to be the best," the S-3 of the 162nd Infantry Brigade, directed to train foreign security force transition teams for deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), said in his conference room at Fort Polk, La.
What sometimes complicates the brigade’s mission is "the difference between Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF)," Maj. Mark Olin, who is in charge of the unit’s operations and training, said.
As the Army moves rapidly to a modular force centered on combat brigades instead of divisions as it did in the past, the 162nd has adopted the MB-SFA, or the Modular Brigade – Security Force Assistance, plan or model, as one of its training methodologies.
This overall plan is to train U.S. combat advisers – both at Fort Polk as well as off-site locations around the world – in order to create a cadre of trainers capable of training, advising, and assisting a foreign nation’s security forces in support of their national policy objectives, according to Lt. Col. Keith Purvis, division chief, Directorate of Cultural Influence and Counterinsurgency(DCC).
"The original mandate for the DCC and the 162nd was to continue the training that the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade [Combat Team] had been doing at Fort Riley, [Kan.]. Now we are fielding more training under the Modular Brigade – Security Force Assistance idea," said Maj. Robert Gully, division chief and instructor at the DCC.
Instructors from the 162nd form Mobile Transition Teams that are sent to brigades about to deploy to train soldiers in that brigade for duty as combat advisers.
Gully, who began his Army career as a private and was commissioned through the OCS program, has seen the 162nd Infantry Brigade’s mission evolve and "shift" since the unit was reactivated at Fort Polk in May 2009.
"I think this was an interesting shift for us," he said. "It was first planned for a large home station-type training where two to five thousand people would come through Fort Polk. And now, we’re actually exporting quite a bit of training, mostly classroom training to the brigades that are going to be augmented with an adviser mission."
Under the MB-SFA concept, there is a 10 day non-resident training program for prospective advisers who are organic to brigades ready for deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.
The program, conducted at the deploying brigades’ home station, with some classes still held at Fort Polk, involves classroom instruction dealing with language and culture, counterinsurgency, the role of the adviser, rapport building, interpreter management, in addition to leader engagements with full-dress role players that will prepare the adviser for interaction with their host nation counterparts and their security forces.
"Leader engagement," Purvis said, "provides a very realistic test during the adviser training process. It is experience-based learning that develops cultural understanding, relationship building, and interoperability with the host nation security forces."
As of March 2010, Mobile Training Teams have trained 2,644 combat advisers in brigades deploying to Iraq from the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division, 1st Infantry Division, 3rd Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 1st Armored Division and the 25th Infantry Division.
They have also trained advisers from brigades in the 82nd Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division, and the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat team for service in Afghanistan.
With this new approach, by training advisers in a brigade that is preparing to deploy at its home station, "we are asking the brigades to change from a lethal force provider to become, in theater, a COIN (counterinsurgency) element that understands the balance between non-lethal and lethal activity in order to counter an insurgency effectively," Gully, who served in the special forces, trained soldiers in Bosnia and has three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said.
Currently, the 162nd has training instructors at Fort Irwin, Calif.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Polk, and Hohenfels, Germany.
Gully said the feedback on this new program from the theaters of operation is "actually pretty positive, and that’s because of the American soldier."
One of the reasons for the program’s apparent success is the quality of the advisers who go through the course.
"Not everyone is equipped to be an adviser and that doesn’t mean that he is a bad soldier or should be penalized for that because this type of human interaction is much different from the regular combat mission," Gully said.
"But," he added, "the 162nd has put a lot into trying to get the right people for the training [needed to become a combat adviser]."
Adding, "I applaud the Army for looking ahead far enough to say: "We should build this ability."