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Posted: March 22, 2018 11:51 a.m.
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RSSB planners set theater for SFAB

Courtesy Photo/

Soldiers with the 1st SFAB board a plane at Fort Benning, Feb. 22, as they prepare to deploy to Afghanistan.

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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade has landed in Afghanistan, marking a significant shift in the US Military’s mission to support the Afghan National Defense Security Forces. 

The SFAB is a brand new unit within the US Army, activated last month, specially prepared to train, advise and assist the ANDSF as they develop into a force capable of defending their country. 

The SFAB is made up of more than 1,200 Soldiers who will be spread across several operating bases throughout Afghanistan. The unit also has "enablers" or support personnel that ensures the SFAB Soldiers are able to conduct their mission. Enablers include military and civilian personnel to provide food service, surveillance and force protection in support of the SFAB.

This massive influx of personnel into Afghanistan required enormous planning and preparation, and was supported by the Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade. This required coordination between many different agencies and units throughout the Combined Joint Operations Area – Afghanistan. 

“We linked up with US Forces – Afghanistan, Resolute Support, and different branches within the Armed Forces in order to set the CJOA-A,” said Capt. Homir Batalla, the 3rd Inf. Div. RSSB Operations Planner, who oversaw much of the planning and coordination to bring the SFAB into theater.

Since the 3rd ID RSSB arrived in theater last October, setting the theater for the SFAB’s arrival has been one of their top priorities. 

Batalla said that he has been attending several meetings each week with military personnel stationed throughout the country. During these meeting they discuss where the SFAB personnel will go and what needs to be done at those locations to make sure there’s space and infrastructure for them.

“The number one priority for the Resolute Support commander is force protection,” said Batalla. “That had to be established before sending any new servicemembers or civilians anywhere.”

In addition to security, planners had to ensure all basic life support needs like shelter and food would be met.

“Once [force protection] was set, we could send in engineers to build up the bases,” said Batalla. Engineers built and expanded barracks and ensured there was enough power and running water for the new occupants.

The RSSB’s Supply Operations section is broken down by commodities and classes of supply. For example, one section handles all food and drinking water, while another handles ammunition and a third handles fuel. All these different sections worked together to make sure the bases were able to expand enough to support more personnel.

Capt. Ashley Mabry, the RSSB’s SPO officer in charge of distribution, worked alongside Batalla to make sure all the requirements met by the respective commodities sections within the SPO.

“There was a multitude of supply requirements,” said Mabry. “We couldn’t have done it without the subject matter experts from each of the commodities sections.”

“We had to bring in tents and generators,” said Master Sgt. Barbara Taylor, RSSB SPO noncommissioned officer in charge of distribution, who worked hand-in-hand with Mabry in making sure the SPO section got every required piece of equipment or vehicle where it needed to be. “Also, we had to coordinate to bring in weapon systems like artillery and aircraft from Iraq.”

Since the 1st SFAB is the first unit of its kind, planners couldn’t necessarily look to previous cases to see what to expect. There were a lot of questions at first with few answers and everything from incoming troop numbers to protection requirements were in a constant state of flux.

“You had to be flexible,” said Taylor. “You could plan for one situation and the next thing you know it changed. Everything was always changing.” 

With most of the movement happening in late winter, the country and environment tested the resiliency of the planners and movers during the set up operation.

“Weather has been challenging,” said Batalla. “It slowed movement down and made it difficult to ensure all locations are fully prepared in time for the arrival.”

The challenges our sustainers face will not end once the SFAB is settled either. All told, the SFAB and their enablers will add more than a thousand people into theater, said Batalla. The RSSB, who oversee all sustainment operations throughout Afghanistan, will have to ensure they are fed and supplied, as well as the rest of theater.

“There’s going to be a need for additional support requirements,” said Mabry. “You need more food, more fuel, more billeting space for these people on the ground. Our RSSB will be heavily relied upon to support these new personnel.”

All the difficulties aside, though, the sustainment planners are excited and relieved to see the Soldiers and enablers of the 1st SFAB getting settled into theater. And they’re honored to be a part of this important shift in strategy

“I’m just excited to see them come in,” said Taylor, “to see all your planning come to light, and to be a part of history.”

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