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Face of Defense: Soldier Finds Unique Experiences in New Army Brigade

By Army Staff Sgt. Sierra A. Melendez 50th Public Affairs Detachment

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FORT BENNING, Ga., Nov. 2, 2017 — Growing up in Springfield, Missouri, Army Sgt. Jeston L. Perryman never envisioned being a skilled operator of foreign military-grade weapon systems. Even after enlisting, he imagined he would primarily troubleshoot malfunctions of infantry weapons and towed artillery.

Soldier poses in front of military vehicles.
Army Sgt. Jeston L. Perryman, a small arms artillery repairman with the 92nd Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, poses for a photo at Fort Benning, Ga., Oct. 13, 2017. Perryman volunteered and was selected for the brigade, a premier unit 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. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sierra A. Melendez
Soldier poses in front of military vehicles. Junior NCO finds unique experiences in Army’s new SFAB
Army Sgt. Jeston L. Perryman, a small arms artillery repairman with the 92nd Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, poses for a photo at Fort Benning, Ga., Oct. 13, 2017. Perryman volunteered and was selected for the brigade, a premier unit 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. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sierra A. Melendez

Perryman's assumptions would be correct – in a typical Army unit.

However, Perryman serves in the Army's 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade, an exclusive specialized unit made up of soldiers selected based on qualifications and experience.

"It has, hands down, been the greatest opportunity I have had in my career," Perryman said. "I have done things in the short amount of time I have been assigned here that many don't get to experience once in their time in the Army."

As part of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley's initiative, the brigade is designed to conduct security force assistance operations to train, advise, assist, accompany and enable partner-nation security forces in support of combatant command requirements worldwide.

In the past, advise-and-assist missions were conducted primarily by brigade combat teams. The creation of security forces assistance brigades will allow brigade combat teams to shift their focus back on readiness for warfighting against near-peer threats.

Elite Fighting Force

Perryman touts the security forces assistance brigade as building an elite fighting force with a caliber of training and leadership surpassing any other unit he has served with.

"It has been constant specialized training events, one after the other," he said. "Myself and other soldiers have had the opportunity to attend Army schools that I know I wouldn't have had the opportunity to in a traditional line unit."

For example, Perryman, along with all other soldiers in the brigade, have attended the Military Advisor Training Academy.

"We've already done some simulated key leader engagements with soldiers acting as role players as Afghan counterparts during the MATA," said Perryman. "It's unlike anything I have ever done before."

Additionally, Perryman had the opportunity to attend foreign weapons training, receiving close to the same experience the Army's special operations community has on the subject.

"We were able to get familiarized with Afghan weapon systems such as the AK-47, the Rocket Propelled Grenade 7 and the DShK," Perryman said. "This way, we are adequately prepared to train our foreign-national counterparts on their own weapons."

Latest Equipment

Foreign weapons familiarization is not the only incentive that soldiers have  to look forward to if they make the decision to apply for the premier, volunteer-only unit. Security forces assistance brigade volunteers will receive the latest personal equipment and arrive to the battlefield using vehicles that include a combination of up-armored Humvees; mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles and light medium tactical vehicles.

Volunteers will receive training that includes common core operations, advising, communications, foreign weapons, and foreign language training, culminating with division-level sponsored capstone exercises at one of the Army's combat training centers prior to deployment.

Higher Deployment Tempo

Like many soldiers who raise their right hand to serve, Perryman knew he wanted to deploy – soon and often. Although much of the Army has seen a decline in frequency in overseas and combat deployments, security forces assistance brigades will deploy to combat and will likely have a higher deployment tempo than other conventional Army units.

Perryman urged his peers to obtain more information if they think they are interested in the opportunities the new brigade has to offer.

"My company has 51 people, so you really get to know each other," he said. "There is a type of unit cohesion that is unlike any other unit that I have served with. It's great. You know everyone here deserves to be here."
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