WASHINGTON — Soldiers from the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade recently returned from a six-month deployment to Tunisia, Djibouti, and Somalia, where they bolstered the Army’s advisory mission despite challenges from the pandemic.
In October, the 2nd SFAB and the four other active-duty SFABs were aligned to assist geographic combatant commands under the National Defense Strategy, according to Security Force Assistance Command officials. The model aims to provide a sustained regional presence through the proper placement of Army advisory personnel.
The 2nd SFAB out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is now the partner of choice to train and advise forces throughout U.S. Africa Command's area of responsibility, said Col. Michael Sullivan, 2nd SFAB commander.
"We represent one of the Army's newest strategic tools in the arsenal, and we provide a critical piece to the Army's future," Sullivan said during an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour discussion last month.
The other brigades and their assigned regions include:
- 1st SFAB, Fort Benning, Georgia -- U.S. Southern Command
- 3rd SFAB, Fort Hood, Texas -- U.S. Central Command
- 4th SFAB, Fort Carson, Colorado -- U.S. European Command
- 5th SFAB, Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington -- U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
The 54th SFAB, a National Guard unit, will reinforce the active-duty SFABs with teams stationed throughout Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Texas.
To ensure mission success within the three African countries, the 2nd SFAB made necessary adjustments to techniques and force health protection procedures to protect all Army and partner personnel, said Maj. John Flach, commander of Charlie Company, 2nd battalion, 2nd SFAB.
"We followed all host nation guidelines as well as guidelines for international travel. We made sure that our advisors were isolated for 14 days and tested 72 hours before movement," Flach said. "These procedures allowed personnel to arrive and immediately begin to advise our partner forces without any risk of communicating the disease or spreading it to our partners."
The 2nd SFAB's mission in Tunisia involved small unit training for the Tunisian special forces, air-to-ground integration training for ground forces, and education on joint operations center systems, brigade officials said.
The missions in Djibouti and Somalia also involved small unit training. However, leaders had to suspend activities in Somalia due to civil unrest in the region.
The 2nd SFAB also made changes to training events, particularly during medical exercises that required individuals to be in close contact, allowing Soldiers and partners to safely continue the mission. With proper safety methods in place, no advisors or partners contracted the virus throughout the deployment, Flach said.
"The employment of the SFAB is growing. It is our responsibility to provide AFRICOM a force package" to address the range of needs across multiple countries, Sullivan said.
Before the pandemic, the 2nd SFAB and AFRICOM had laid out an aggressive plan to also expand partnerships across the continent in Senegal, Kenya, and Ghana, he added.
"It is not necessarily about trying to replicate or mirror a U.S. solution with our African partners," Sullivan said. "As that partner of choice for conventional advising, we need to understand their needs, assess what they have, and then make them better with it."
The brigade looks to increase its advisory footprint through ongoing contact and exercises, including African Lion 21 that takes place this month.
AFRICOM officials said the African Lion exercise focuses on interoperability between U.S. and partner nations, targeting regional instability and peace operations, and helping counter violent extremist organizations and transnational threats.
"You'll see us persistently engaging with those partnered militaries and countries," Sullivan said, adding that there are now systems in place to deploy small teams of advisors to meet current and future partner requirements.
"We are just another piece in that larger Army … to provide a continuity of understanding of what a partner force as a whole can provide," he added.