The Army has always been steeped in tradition.
And, the spirit of the past still lives today as the Army fights two wars – the longest siege in its history with an all-volunteer force – and transforms and restructures into a modular fighting force that is centered on versatile brigade combat teams capable of rapidly deploying to conduct operations in an ever-changing global environment.
The 162nd Infantry Brigade – fighting in the Ardennes in World War I and the Philippines and western Pacific in World War II – adopted the Latin motto "Omne Vir Tigris" – "Every Man a Tiger."
Deactivated in 1965, the brigade was reactivated and assigned to Fort Polk, La., with a new mission, a new patch, a new commander and a new designation – the 162nd Infantry Brigade (FSF-TT), Foreign Security Force – Transition Team.
The brigade is charged with the responsibility to train United States forces to prepare foreign civilian and military security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq for the eventual transfer of security responsibilities back to the host nations.
The Foreign Security Force Transition Team Training Brigade provides rotational units capable of training, coaching, and mentoring to the Afghanistan National Army and other Afghan security forces, and the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq and the Iraqi Assistance Group.
Known as the "Home of Heroes," Fort Polk is the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center, where tough, realistic, joint and combined arms training for leaders, soldiers and units deploying to theaters around the world to fight and win is conducted.
Units also assigned include the 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division; the 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the 162nd .
On May 1, 2009, at a change of command ceremony on Fort Polk’s Warrior Field, the brigade’s colors were unfurled by Col. Richard Bloss, the brigade commander when the unit was realigning its mission from the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, Fort Riley, Kan., who presented them to Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough, Polk commander.
Yarbrough then passed the colors to Col. Mark A. Bertolini, the new brigade commander, and welcomed the brigade saying, "You don’t get to bring a unit back to life very often. … Seize this moment. The colors of the 162nd have lain dormant since they last waved proudly over the brigade 44 years ago, and now they are back on active duty."
In his remarks, Bertolini said, "I challenge you [soldiers of the 162nd] to become the best teachers you can be, provide the finest training possible to those who will bear the burden of combat."
The new "Tigerland" was officially open at Fort Polk.
At Fort Riley, the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team trained soldiers, sailors and airmen to join with transition teams in Afghanistan and Iraq and train advisers to ready their allied armies to ensure they are able to protect their peoples and governments.
The new brigade mission, according to Bertolini, will take the mission the unit executed at Fort Riley and move it "a step or two further than before."
The brigade’s cadre conducts combat adviser training of joint, multi-national foreign area advisory teams and modular brigade combat teams augmented for security force assistance.
This training, according to Maj. Mark Olin, the brigade S-3 for operations and training, will "achieve theater, service and joint training requirements and is responsible for the reception, training, certification, deployment, support while deployed, redeployment, re-integration and theater coordination of adviser teams currently in support of overseas contingency operations."
"Security force assistance, it’s going to be an enduring mission," Bertolini said. "It’s going to be a longer effort, so it was determined to put more emphasis on this type of training. Let’s go ahead, dedicate a unit [the 162nd] toward this mission … by providing combat adviser training and security force assistance training."
The brigade, to accomplish its mission, is at the top of the Army’s manning priorities.
"If you look at the list [the Army’s manning charts], we are right at the top of the list. The only units that are actually higher are those deploying and the new units that are standing up. We are better than 90 percent, and the goal is 100 percent."
The brigade has an overall strength of 825 authorized personnel, with a current actual strength of 802 – 97 percent.
Seventy-six percent have combat experience and almost 12 percent have been advisers.
"The majority of our cadre has been in combat, and they did it down range," he said.
Some cadre members, however, have not received the Army’s formal adviser training.
"When I was in Iraq, I had to pair up with an Iraqi brigade commander, and I worked with him as a partner and adviser the entire time. So, some have had that type of experience too [without Army training]," Bertolini, who was commissioned as a second lieutenant of armor through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., said.
Since 9-11, personnel assigned to the 162nd Brigade – over 83 percent – have deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan at least once. Many have had multiple tours.
"That’s a pretty good number for your average brigade," he said.
Because of its mission, the brigade is always looking for prospective cadre members who have had experience in both theaters – Iraq and Afghanistan. But, now the real focus is shifting to Afghanistan.
Keeping the "cadre relevant," Bertolini said is important so they are "constantly going to theater. We have folks down range – there are about 50 right now. We keep a constant number of liaison officers throughout Iraq and Afghanistan and one in Kuwait."
In addition to their deployments, the cadre is continually video teleconferencing (VTC) with operational theaters.
For example, Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of forces in Iraq, will hold a VTC with the brigade’s cadre and "give us his impression of the way ahead in Iraq and what we need to train on."
The brigade also hosted a security force assistance symposium in April where 80 people from around the world, including those in combat areas, "sit down and hammer out, brainstorm, the way ahead and talk about best practices."
The type of officer, noncommissioned officer and soldier needed for this duty must be a special breed.
"I’m looking for a person who has got good interpersonal skills, can really work one-on-one with folks who they’re training. Not a hard-headed individual. Somebody who has an open mind, has their [allies’] experiences," Bertolini said.
Training is not just an officers’ game. The noncommissioned officer, with combat and training experience, is a key player in the security force assistance program.
"The role of the NCO in what we do is absolutely critical," he said. "What makes our Army so strong is the integral noncommissioned officer. They are the heart of what we do."
As an example of their indispensible role, the 162nd recently completed a training program for noncommissioned officers who are being deployed to build and staff an NCO academy in theater.
"This will help [our allies] develop the most professional armed forces they can develop by having a strong NCO corps," he said.
The Army chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., visited Fort Polk and the Joint Readiness Training Center in February.
As reported in Fort Polk Guardian, commenting on the 162nd Infantry Brigade’s development since it arrived on post, Casey said, "To see how this brigade has come together and formed, and is already making a difference was heartening to me."
Adding, "I met with a group of leaders who are going to be combat advisers and I told them the same thing I have been telling transition teams since 2005: They are critically important to our success in both Iraq and Afghanistan, because we don’t succeed in either place until the local security forces can maintain domestic order and keep terrorists out of their countries."
Reiterating the fact that this training mission is not a "temporary mission" that will go away "beyond the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan," Bertolini said, "We have invested about $150 million in a building center here [at Fort Polk] and we are going to increase the number of cadre."
Tigerland – Combat Advisor Center of Excellence, a modular construction complex, has training and support facilities and quality-of-life enhancements such as a dining facility that can feed 1,800 people in 90 minutes; two morale, welfare and recreation areas; a gym, basketball court and a medical aid station.
The training facility has a Call for Fire Trainer, a Medical Simulation Training Center, a Reconfigurable Vehicular Tactical Trainer, a state-of-the-art language lab and an Engagement Skills Trainer.
"I believe the message is," Bertolini said, "the Army as an organization has come to realize security force assistance is the province of the general purpose forces [not just special forces]. It’s not exclusively special operations."
Adding, "If we look at conflicts or potential conflicts – or just areas of instability – around the world, what’s going to lead to stability is when you take a host nation’s security forces and police forces and they become a legitimate entity within that country.
"That’s really the key. This is a center of excellence. We are fully resourced and ready to go. We are happy to do this mission."
Welcome to Tigerland.