Academic journal article Military Review

The Advisor and the Brigade Combat Team: Toward an Enduring Solution for an Enduring Requirement

Academic journal article Military Review

The Advisor and the Brigade Combat Team: Toward an Enduring Solution for an Enduring Requirement

Article excerpt

In August 2010, the 4th Brigade Combat Team "Currahees," 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) deployed to Regional Command-East (RC-East) as one of the first brigade combat teams (BCTs) augmented with additional advising personnel for security force assistance (SFA) in Afghanistan. Using this new model, the Army assigned several dozen personnel-commisioned officers from captains through colonels and senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs)-to the BCT during the intensive training period of Army force generation (ARFORGEN), centrally trained them as combat advisors, then deployed them as an integrated part of the formation. This change represented a shift from the Military Transition Team (MiTT) concept; it is the next evolution of the Army's approach to organizing units for SFA.

In May 2013, 4th BCT again deployed to RC-East, augmented in much the same manner with additional officers and NCOs to serve as the foundation of the brigade's advising effort. In fact, 4th BCT was the last BCT to advise and assist at the subprovincial or infantry kandak (battalion) level, as the focus was shifted to the Afghan Army, corps level and higher. In this regard, the Currahees have seen the model of the BCT augmented for security force assistance (SFA) through its entire life cycle in Afghanistan. As Army leaders determine how to organize for advising foreign security forces (FSF) going forward while maintaining full-spectrum capability, a closer examination of 4th BCT's experience is useful.

Having deployed with the BCT in 2010 as an augmentee combat advisor and again in 2013 as the BCT operations officer, I have had a unique opportunity to gain a variety of perspectives on this topic. Despite the differing roles, however, I have grappled with the same questions every time: Will conventional Army forces retain this type of mission post-Afghanistan? Is a BCT the right formation for advising missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere? If so, how should the BCT organize for SFA or related building-partner-capacity missions? Are we doing the right things to select and train officers and NCOs to be advisors?

This article attempts to address these critical questions, concluding that the mission is here to stay, and the BCT, augmented and task-organized as the mission demands, is still the right approach to SFA. In order to realize the full potential of the model, however, the Army should formalize the process for selecting, training, and managing the careers of advisors.

Competing Concepts

Discussions of institutionalizing advising capability in the Army often start with mention of John Nagl's 2007 proposal for a permanent advisor corps.1 With a 20,000-strong formation commanded by a lieutenant general and organized exclusively for advising FSF, the advisor corps arguably occupies one end of the spectrum of solutions with respect to cost and scale. Another concept, developed by the Army but determined in 2008 not to be an Army requirement, was the Theater Military Advisory and Assistance Group, or TMAAG. The TMAAG concept proposed a smaller organization, tailor-made for advising, and assigned to the geographic combatant commands (GCCs), under the respective Army Service component commands.2 As an indicator of the direction in which the Army was moving, the desire to retain the BCT as the focus of our advising efforts was cited as the reason for the chief of staff of the Army's decision to abandon the TMAAG.3 Published in 2009, Field Manual 3-07.1, Security Force Assistance, established the BCT as the formation of choice for SFA, able to be augmented with advisors but also retaining "the capability to conduct full spectrum operations-offense, defense, and stability."4

Will we ever do this again?

While the United States is unlikely to take on another large-scale, prolonged stability operation in the near future, the tempo of training and advising missions with FSF will likely continue to increase. Witness the sizable training and advising component to coalition operations to defeat ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Operation Inherent Resolve. …

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