Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How GEN Chiarelli understands the advisory/SFA brigade concept

There's an interview in this month's National Defense Magazine with GEN Peter Chiarelli, former commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and Multi-National Corps-Iraq, and current Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. Here's what he has to say about the Modular Brigades Augmented for Security Force Assistance (which he confusingly refers to with the term "advisory brigades," reminiscent of the soon-to-be-defunct terminology of "Advise and Assist Brigades"), covered in the past here.

The Army also is under pressure to train more “advisory brigades” to assist Iraqi and Afghan commanders. To that end, the Army is planning to add more officers to existing brigades. The Army wants advisory organizations to remain combat brigades rather than become specialized units, says Chiarelli. “We believe that as much as we can keep the force from specialization the better off we’ll be,” he says. “The brigade combat team is now the centerpiece formation.” The brigade is versatile and can be augmented with field grade officers for advisory missions, he says.

“The skills you’re looking for in an advisory brigade are from operations officers” who are trained for combat, he says. “Formations can be pulled out from a BCT and used in advisory missions when you don’t need a full brigade,” says Chiarelli.

This is consistent with what I've been told in the past, which is that SFA brigades will "maintain the capability to perform full-spectrum operations." I'm not really sure what he's on about in the last bit, but I mostly blame that on the writer. Is he saying that you can pull guys out of a combat brigade to perform the advisory mission when the entire brigade isn't needed for combat operations? Because I thought the point of having a brigade augmented for SFA was that it would be an SFA-centric, dedicated advisory/training brigade (at least in the sense that the brigade would serve as the force provider for multiple training teams, led by the augmentee officers) -- NOT that it would be a regular ol' brigade with a few extra dudes that could be used for the SFA mission when they're not too busy pulling triggers and calling for fires.

It might be the case that I'm just sort of getting wrapped up in semantics, but it's a confusing subject and I'm not entirely sure that anyone in the Army really has their arms around it.

The whole interview is worth a read if you care about stuff like Army procurement lead-times and whatnot.

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