Army offering $5,000 bonus to enlisted soldiers who volunteer to train others

U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 3rd Squadron "Thunder," 3rd Cavalry Regiment, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, conduct dismounted patrols, at the National Training Center, as part of Security Force Assistance Brigade Rotation 14-05, March 19, 2014.

The US army is offering five thousand dollar bonuses to experienced troops who volunteer to train foreign militaries, easing the demand for a task generally reserved for Special Forces.

In a global tempo shift that now sees more American soldiers training foreign troops how to fight in wars than personally fighting in them, the concept of a Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) has become a reality- and the Army is looking for a few good men.

Well, more than a few. Five brigades are to be stood up for the permanent duty of being able to deploy anywhere in the world as professional advisers, replacing the patchwork-quilt of units who had previously been relegated from their combat roles to train foreign forces (with varying success).

“It’s a recognition that this is an enduring requirement for the conventional Army,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, told The Associated Press in an interview. “Most times we’re falling in on existing institutions that are probably failing, and bringing them up to a certain competency level so they can secure themselves. And we’ve got to be able to do that on a large scale.”

The new program will offer $5,000 signing bonuses to top-notch troops who volunteer for the role, a bounty that was authorized on Wednesday and is expected to be cashed out in June. The Army has already chosen a Colonel to lead the first brigade, who will be travelling to a number of posts to recruit members into the all-volunteer unit.

Abrams has acknowledged the apprehension that some soldiers may feel toward joining such a unit, between reduced time in actual combat, time away from home and the possibility of time spent in the unit not amounting to much if the training trend dies down.

“There is natural apprehension in the field: ‘Is this a flash in the pan?’ It’s not a flash in the pan,” Abrams said. “The chief is committed and the Army senior leadership is committed, I’m committed. This is going to be an enduring capability.”

While the brigade will have 529 soldiers, 360 will be officers who don’t qualify for the bonus. The rest will be enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers who stand to make a little extra, though the bonus is targeted more towards hooking mid-grade NCOs.

The objective of the brigade is to focus solely on training forces, rather than splitting up units, degrading combat effectiveness or causing logistical and training woes.

“[Splitting up units] separates the leaders from those they lead, and it degrades (unit) readiness significantly,” Abrams said.

The US Army reported in February that six SFABs will be set up at Fort Benning, Georgia, which is the traditional home of the US Army Infantry. In addition to SFABs, a Military Advisor Training Academy will be set up as well.

“The SFABs can serve a dual purpose,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Army Chief of Operations. “They are the day-to-day experts combatant commanders need to train, advise and assist our partners overseas, but they can serve also as a standing chain of command for rapidly expanding the Army.”

SFAB members -who are expected to be deployable around 2018- will go through a six-to-eight week training course, with almost 200 soldiers receiving 16 weeks of intensive language instruction. Others will get an eight-week language course.

Another question in the back many people’s minds remains in the creation of SFABs- If such units begin taking over the traditional role of Special Forces, what will Special Forces evolve into?

According to the US Army, all five brigades are expected to be stood up by 2022.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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