Story and photos by Scott Prater
FORT CARSON, Colo. — To the casual observer, the small squads of Soldiers in uniform running on a fitness trail near Iron Horse Park looked like nothing out of the ordinary Feb. 1, 2019. To the Soldiers, however, it marked the first time they had gathered to conduct operations as Army advisers.
The 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), Security Force Assistance Command (SFAC), stood up on post Jan. 16, 2019. During the next few weeks, its newly assigned Soldiers will arrive at Fort Carson. Meanwhile, the few who will continue to arrive, decided there was no time better than the present to begin thinking and acting as SFAB advisers.
“With the amount of (training) courses we go to and the amount of time we spend away from home state, this is in an effort to help build the team,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael J. McMurdy, 4th SFAB command sergeant major. “We brought them all in to do some type of event that has a shared hardship where they have to figure things out and get to know each other. And, oh by the way, we could also do a litmus check for how we’re doing with our fitness across the organization.”
After meeting at Iron Horse Park, the 4th SFAB Soldiers divided up into squads of four and completed a roughly 3-mile run, stopping periodically at stations along the route to perform 400 repetitions of a given calisthenic. Signs posted at each of the 11 stations informed the squads of the exercise they were to complete along with an explanation about one of the SFAB’s core attributes.
McMurdy explained that challenging 4th SFAB members physically and mentally early on stems from lessons learned.
“We have the benefit of learning from three previous SFABS,” he said. “If we made the same mistakes or ran into the same challenges and didn’t get ahead of them, then we’re probably not the people to be advisers. This is a way of beginning discussions and having (4th SFAB Soldiers) look at things in a different way as they go into their next mission.”
Created with the intention to alleviate the enduring advise-and-assist mission load on brigade combat teams, the SFABs are new formations specially trained and built to enable combatant commanders to accomplish theater-security objectives by training, advising, assisting, accompanying and enabling allied and partnered indigenous security forces.
Every 4th SFAB member was hand picked by the brigade commander and command sergeant major.
“These Soldiers come from every military operational specialty in the Army and they are some of the best at their MOS, but thinking as an adviser, developing that mindset is important,” McMurdy said. “Within this event, there were (a) couple of different ways the teams could execute their stations, depending on how they war-gamed and made decisions. So, it was interesting to see how the different teams decided to try and share the burden and how that changed over time.”
1st Sgt. Eric Walker participated in the event as a squad member and recognized its benefits.
“This gave us an opportunity to work as a team and forced us to think about those adviser core attributes,” Walker said. “It was also an opportunity to get to know each other, as well. I’ve been a part of a lot of different organizations in the Army, and this one is kind of an elite group to some extent. We’re working in a brand new organization with a brand new structure. So, this was great to start out with a team-building task.”
While a few took the chance to tackle the 4×400 fitness challenge, many 4th SFAB members are away at training courses. Nevertheless, McMurdy explained that SFABs are operating on an accelerated time line.
“SFABs are designed to deploy both as a brigade and as smaller elements, depending on what is requested and approved by Security Forces Assistance Command,” he said. “So, as we build capacity and capability, we’ll report back to SFAC as to what we can provide.”
The unit has already set up shop on post and though it is a tenant unit at Fort Carson, McMurdy said 4th Infantry Division and U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson have been extremely supportive.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better reception,” McMurdy said. “The reason we have a building is because of the support from Maj. Gen. (Randy A.) George (commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson) and his team. We couldn’t do things like this event and send our Soldiers to school if we had to worry about setting up furniture and painting walls.”