Army to Deploy Special Advisory Team to Colombia for Counter-Drug Op

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The Army's 1st SFAB
Soldiers assigned to 815th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, fire M4 carbines during a stress shoot Oct. 20, 2017, at McAndrews Range on Fort Benning, Ga. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Zoe Garbarino, 50th Public Affairs Detachment, 3rd Infantry Division public affairs)

The U.S. Army announced Thursday that it will soon deploy a team from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) to Colombia to advise security forces in counter-drug operations.

The June 1 deployment of the company-sized element marks the first time an SFAB advisory team has been ordered to support a partner country in the region as part of the Enhanced Counter-Narcotics Operation, which was announced April 1 by President Donald Trump, according to a U.S. Army South news release.

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The team will support U.S.-Colombia diplomatic and development efforts by training, advising and assisting local security units, as well as working in "priority areas" where they will focus on bolstering logistics and intelligence capabilities to directly support the cooperation agreement, the release states.

The Pentagon announced in mid-February that the 1st SFAB, based at Fort Benning, Georgia, would deploy to Africa to train local forces in an effort to contend with Russia and China in the region.

Elements of the unit were sent to the continent in March, but COVID-19 interrupted the deployment, according to a May 7 Army news release, which states that U.S. Army Africa is now working with the State Department to plan for a future security force assistance mission "once conditions allow the advisers to return."

The unit deployed for the first time in 2018 to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Army's 4th SFAB, stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, will soon deploy to Afghanistan to replace the 3rd SFAB as part of a regular rotation in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel, the service announced in late April.

SFABs are the first permanent Army units whose core mission is conducting security cooperation activities, which in the past had been conducted by regular brigade combat teams.

Upon arrival in Colombia, the 1st SFAB team will go into a 14-day preventive isolation that the local government mandated to control the spread of COVID-19, according to the release.

"The deployment has no specified duration, and the team will remain with their host units as determined by U.S. and Colombia military leadership assessment," the release states. "The SFAB deployment demonstrates [U.S. Southern Command's] enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with its partners."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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