A new Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning, Georgia, will train both noncommissioned and commissioned officers assigned to a new type of unit: the Security Force Assistance Brigade.
The first six-week course at the academy is scheduled to begin in October as the first Soldiers for the new unit report to Fort Benning. Eventually, six SFABs will stand up.
These new brigades will have no junior enlisted Soldiers. They will be staffed with 500 senior NCOs and officers who will have the expertise to help train foreign militaries.
The effects that the SFABs will bring to the Army will actually be three-fold, said Col. Brian Ellis, maneuver division chief in the directorate of force management at the Pentagon who led planning for the new brigades.
“First, the Army will more effectively advise and assist foreign security forces,” he said.
“The second is to preserve the readiness of our brigade combat teams by reducing the need to break apart those formations to conduct security assistance missions.”
This will preserve BCT readiness for full-spectrum operations.
The third role of the SFAB is to help the Army more quickly regenerate brigade combat teams when needed. If the Army needs another BCT, for example, junior Soldiers would fall in on an existing SFAB, which is already full of senior NCOs and officers. Having a pre-built command structure in place will significantly speed up the process of generating new brigades, Ellis said.
An SFAB serves as a “standing chain of command for rapidly expanding the Army,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations and training.
In the meantime, the SFABs will be the Army’s first permanent units whose core mission is to conduct security cooperation activities, he said, allowing quick response to combatant commander requirements.
SFABs will be designed on the model of infantry and armored brigade combat teams, Ellis said, with a framework staff of NCOs in the grade of staff sergeant and above, and officers who are captains and above. Each brigade will have a cavalry squadron and two maneuver battalions, either infantry or armor.
Each company will have three teams of four trainers and a company headquarters. And even the headquarters will serve as a training team, Ellis said.
Soldiers will report by battalions to the Military Advisor Training Academy. The first battalion will begin training at the academy in October.
The academy itself will have a cadre of approximately 70 instructors, including some special forces soldiers, Ellis said.
After the initial six-week course, SFAB officers and NCOs will receive follow-up training in foreign languages, cultural studies and foreign weapons, Ellis said. He explained that it will take about a year to train a unit up to full operating capability so that an SFAB can deploy to assist a combatant commander.
The first SFAB unit will be permanently stationed at Fort Benning. The second one, which is planned to stand up in the fall of 2018, will be a National Guard brigade, Ellis said. The third SFAB will be in the regular Army, and it is planned to begin training in the fall of 2018, though permanent stationing and resourcing decisions haven’t been made yet past the first brigade.
Currently, the Army has three BCTs deployed for advise and assist missions, Ellis said. It may be a few years before the new SFABs will be able to handle all of that demand.
In the meantime, the 3-353rd Armor Battalion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, will continue training BCTs to handle security force assistance missions.
Ellis said the Army’s six SFABs should eventually be able to handle the bulk of SFA missions, in support of security cooperation, stability operations, and counterinsurgency operations.
As a noncommissioned officer, Kelisa Wing strove to inspire her Soldiers by her example, and today, she does the same for her students and fellow teachers.
Wing was nominated by one of her students and named 2017 Department of Defense Education Activity Teacher of the Year. Now, she will compete for the title of National Teacher of the Year.
Wing said she knows firsthand the damage that can be caused by an uncaring teacher. She vowed she would never let that happen to a student under her guidance and wants to inspire other teachers to do the same.
“My first-grade teacher never stopped to ask me what was going on in my life, never made that connection,” Wing said. “She didn’t really realize or possibly care that we were going through a very tumultuous time in our lives, struggling to pay bills, not having lights on, going to bed hungry and things like that, and that really impacted me for my entire schooling and now as a teacher. I don’t want to be that teacher. I don’t want to be that teacher who fails a student and doesn’t stop to ask. I am always stopping and asking, ‘What is going on? How can I help you? How can we be successful together?’ I was so ashamed of the fact that I did fail that I never publicly admitted it – but that is why being DODEA Teacher of the Year means so much to me. Statistically, if you look at my background, I wasn’t supposed to make it. But here I am, DODEA Teacher of the Year, and I can tell kids that even though life may issue you some hard knocks, you can still be successful.”
As teacher of the year, Wing will take a semester-long sabbatical to work on a project of her choice. She plans to organize a leadership summit for DODEA teachers in September, as well as create a systematic teacher-to-teacher mentorship program within DODEA.
“I believe that by working with our leaders and teachers we can create something everybody will be happy with and that at the end of the day is going to impact student achievement, which is ultimately my mission,” Wing said. “I want to close the achievement gap and empower students by empowering teachers.”
Wing will find out in January if she is a finalist in the National Teacher of the Year competition. The top four finalists travel in the spring to Washington, D.C., where the president of the United States will announce the winner.
Wing’s principal, Joan Islas, said she loves working with Wing and is proud to see her as DODEA Teacher of the Year. Wing definitely deserves to be National Teacher of the Year, she said.
“Kelisa has contributed so much to our school – to the students here as well as to the professional development of her peers,” Islas said. “Students don’t fall through the cracks when they are under Kelisa’s watch. That is for sure.”
“The Army has really molded and shaped me into the type of educator that I am,” Wing said. “Even working together with my fellow teachers. We are definitely better together, and that is something the Army taught me.”
Former NCO Kelisa Wing has brought the leadership skills she gained in the Army into her classroom at Fort Benning, Georgia. Faith Middle School’s students and teachers are inspired every day by Wing, who has been named the 2017 Department of Defense Education Activity Teacher of the Year.
Wing has known she wanted to be a teacher since she was 16 years old. She was a camp counselor, and was faced with two feuding sixth-grade girls. The girls had been rivals for quite some time, but Wing sat them down and encouraged them to talk to each other, one at a time.
“I was surprised, because I wasn’t much older than them, but they were listening to me, and they actually became friends afterward,” Wing said. “I found that it was very natural for me to talk to older children who are sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. I just felt like I had found my calling. I came home from camp and told my mother that I wanted to be a teacher. She told me teachers don’t make a lot of money, but it didn’t matter to me because I knew that I had made a difference.”
Wing said her mother instilled in her a drive to pursue her education and make something of herself. She knew an education was her key to a brighter future.
“‘Pursue it and do it’ is something my mother would always tell me,” Wing said. “She was a single mother, and I watched her go to school at night and eventually become a registered nurse. She was a wonderful example of perseverance and tenacity. That is really what is at the core of me. My mother would always say, ‘You can do anything you set your mind to. There are no barriers. There are no limits except the ones you create for yourself.’”
Today, those same encouraging words are the ones Wing passes on to her students. Each year, she leads a career project with the eighth-graders at Faith Middle School. The project, with a motto of “Pursue it and do it, building a team to fulfill your dream,” leads the students through a five-step process. They define their goals, research their options, collaborate with others, talk about their dreams with the people important to them, and then execute.
“I believe you can do anything you set your mind to,” Wind said. “This is what I teach my students.”
Working at DODEA
The DOD Educational Activity plans, directs, coordinates and manages pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade education programs for children of Department of Defense personnel who would otherwise not have access to high-quality public education. DODEA schools are in Europe, the Pacific, Western Asia, the Middle East, Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico and the United States. DODEA also provides support and resources to educational agencies throughout the Unites States that serve the children of military families.
Wing has been teaching for five years, but she has been working for DODEA for 10. She started as a substitute teacher while stationed with her husband in Germany. She then worked as an educational aide, a secretary and finally an administrative officer before starting her student teaching.
“When I made that transition from being a Soldier to being an Army spouse, I knew I wanted to be an educator, and I just wanted to be close to it, no matter what,” Wing said. “So I worked in support positions just to be around children and be a part of the educational system.”
Wing’s principal, Joan Islas, has known her for eight of the 10 years she has worked for DODEA.
“When I met her, she was an administrative officer, and that position focuses on facilities, transportation, the logistical support of the building,” Islas said. “She really stood out to me because she took such a great interest in the students, in their families. That is not usually a focus for an administrative officer. Her interest, concern and love for the children and the community was amazing to see. I have seen her grow into this teaching position, but her care and concern for these kids and their families has really never changed.”
Wing said that though she has always enjoyed working for DODEA, her current teaching position is her favorite. She especially loves working with eighth-graders, because it is a sensitive time in the students’ lives during which she can have a great impact.
“I have student-taught 11th and 12th grade, and I found that by the time students hit the 12th grade, and I hate to say it, but it was too late,” she said. “We had kids who didn’t have enough credits. They had to make a decision whether they wanted to pursue a GED or take extra night-time or online classes. So to me, eighth grade is a vital time in the life of a child. They are getting ready to go to high school, and everything in high school matters. You have to be there, be focused. So we really try to build those skills here, before high school. We can’t stress to them enough the importance of their education and building good study skills, taking ownership of their education. I want it bad for them. Dr. Islas wants it bad for them. But they have got to want it. They have to do what they have to do to be successful.”
NCO skills in the classroom
Wing enlisted in the Army right out of high school in 1999 to get money for college. She worked as a 42F human resources information system management specialist, and was promoted to the rank of sergeant after three years.
“I always had this drive,” Wing said. “Not just for me, but whatever I was going to do, I wanted to do my very best in it so I could show my Soldiers that example.”
When she was a young staff sergeant stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, she was the NCO in charge of the electronic military personnel office with about 30 Soldiers under her care.
Wing recalled a sergeant major asking her during her board for promotion to the rank of staff sergeant, “What is more important, the accomplishment of the mission or the welfare of your Soldiers?”
She said she knew he was expecting her to say the mission is most important, but she replied, “If I don’t take care of my Soldiers, the mission will never be accomplished.”
Wing said she wouldn’t trade her experience in the Army for anything, because it has shaped her into the educator she is today. The leadership skills she developed as an NCO transfer into the classroom and help her create an environment of respect for her students.
“I know that my mission as an educator is to educate, engage and empower students. That is always in the forefront of my mind. I will never quit on any child. The more challenging the situation, the more excited it makes me because I’m like, ‘We are going to get this done. We are going to get you from good to great.’ Defeat is not in my vocabulary, and I believe that every setback is an opportunity for a comeback. So I will never accept defeat. I will never leave a fallen comrade. In the military we never leave anyone behind, and in my classroom, I will never leave a child behind. Everybody is going to be successful.
“I am very proud to have been a part of the corps of noncommissioned officers, just as I am proud to be a teacher. I take that pride, and I take it into my classroom every single day.”
Relating to the kids
Wing said working with children is more difficult than working with Soldiers, because she doesn’t have Army regulations to back her up in the classroom. But learning to connect with her Soldiers and earn their respect has helped her to do the same with her students.
“I have got to connect with these kids in a personal way, and I have to earn their trust, or they are never going to open up their minds for me,” she said.
Wing relates so well to her students, Islas said, because she understands military life. All of the students at Faith Middle School live on post at Fort Benning, and Wing’s experiences as a Soldier and as an Army spouse allow her to empathize with any challenges they face.
“She understands the life and the responsibility of the military child,” Islas said. “They really wear the uniform as well as the parent. They have to move, go into new communities, be flexible, be resilient. Their bodies and minds are changing, and they have to adapt and adjust in new ways while still being responsible. Kelisa understands that. She holds them to extremely high expectations while helping them through times of transition with a lot of kindness and patience.”
The entire school has benefited from Wing’s empathetic approach. Two years ago, Wing created a schoolwide program to address students’ social and emotional needs. The program’s acronym, STAR, stands for stop, teach, affect and reach. More than 500 staff members and students make time every Friday to talk for 10 minutes. They talk about the life skills the students will need to prepare for change or to resolve conflicts. The program is designed to build the kids’ resiliency and self-reliance by showing them that their teachers are available and eager to help them attain their goals.
“The STAR program was her initiative, and it has been very successful here,” Islas said. “It gets teachers and students to connect and know about each other on a personal level. It addresses the whole child, which is extremely important because there is more to our kids than just the academic side. Oftentimes kids — especially military kids — are going through things at home and we want them to feel connected, a part of our community, that this is a safe place for them to come, and that we care about them and their families.”
Two medics representing the U.S. Army Special Operations Command were named the Army’s best medics after a grueling 72-hour competition at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Camp Bullis, Texas.
Staff Sgt. Noah Mitchell and Sgt. Derick Bosley from the 75th Ranger Regiment, representing the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, were named the winners of the Command Sgt. Maj. Jack L. Clark Jr. Best Medic Competition during a ceremony Friday at the Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam Houston. Both Mitchell and Bosley are stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Second place went to Sgt. Matthew Evans and Sgt. Jarrod Sheets from the 10th Mountain Division, and third place went to Cpt. Jeremiah Beck and Sgt. Seyoung Lee from the 2nd Infantry Division. Awards were also presented for the top performing teams in different categories, including the best overall physical fitness score, medical skills score and marksmanship score.
The competition, hosted by Army Medical Command and conducted by AMEDDC&S, is designed to test Soldiers’ tactical medical proficiency, teamwork and leadership skills. The competing teams were graded in the areas of physical fitness – in addition to PT and combat water survival tests, they were required to walk up to 30 miles throughout the competition – tactical pistol and rifle marksmanship, land navigation and overall knowledge of medical, technical and tactical proficiencies.
Wesley P. Elliot of Army Medicine contributed to this report. Header image courtesy of AMEDDC&S.
Staff Sgt. John Joss may not have reached the medal stand Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the 2016 Paralympic Games, but the four-year member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit certainly proved his name belongs alongside the shooting world’s elite.
Joss started the day next to 40 of the world’s best shooters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, competing in the mixed R6-50-meter rifle prone competition. By day’s end, his scores netted him a fifth-place finish. It was the highest finish for an American man at the competition.
While not bringing home any hardware is certainly disappointing, the top-five finish showcased Joss’ deftness with the rifle in his first Paralympics. He qualified for the medal round after a sixth-place finish in outdoor qualification amid blustery conditions. National Paralympic Coach Bob Foth said Joss made smart decisions throughout qualification in reading wind speed and movement. Once action moved indoors for the finals, Joss improved his standing by one position.
“This is totally different than anything I’ve ever done before,” Joss told USA Shooting after the competition. “I felt calm and on fire at the same time. I know I was working with a kind of shaky hold. I was making smart decisions, but there isn’t much I could do at the end. I did the best I could, and I really took a lot out of it. It’s hard to hit a target that small alone, then when you have an elevated heart rate, a pulse in your hand and your front sight starts moving around, it makes it a lot harder.”
Joss’ performance is also testament to how far he has come since sustaining both physical injuries and emotional hardship in 2007. Joss had both of his legs seriously injured in an improvised explosive device attack while deployed north of Baghdad, Iraq. He returned to the United States to undergo multiple surgeries and begin a grueling rehabilitation process before he was dealt another blow — Joss’ father was killed in a vehicle accident two months after his arrival at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
Joss subsequently made the difficult decision to amputate his right leg. He began shooting competitively at Fort Benning, Georgia, to supplement his rehabilitation. Joss soon found success. He joined the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, he won gold at the USA Shooting National Championships. Two years later, he has served notice to the rest of the shooting world that he will be a force in the coming years.
WCAP swimmer back in action
Sgt. Elizabeth Marks returns to the pool Thursday, Sept. 15, for the first of three events she is scheduled to compete in.
The Paralympic swimmer from the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program competes in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay Sept. 15. She will swim the 4×100-meter medley relay Friday, Sept. 16, and closes the Rio Paralympics in the SM8 200-meter individual medley.
Marks has already claimed one gold medal at these Paralympics, winning the SB7 100-meter breaststroke with a world record time during the weekend.
The official magazine of noncommissioned officer professional development