Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wash. – Soldiers with the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade completed their first mission in the Indo-Pacific Command’s Area of Responsibility this week as SFAB Advisors returned from a one month mission in Thailand, Sept. 1, 2020.
The 5th SFAB which officially activated in May 2020, sent a battalion task force of approximately 60 Soldiers to Thailand from Aug. 1 – 31, 2020 to train alongside the Royal Thai Army while implementing a well-planned COVID-19 mitigation strategy to protect members of the SFAB and the RTA.
“Our goal in this partnership with the Royal Thai Army is to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific where all nations meet as equal partners,” said Col. Curtis Taylor, commander of the 5th SFAB. “We learned as much from the great leaders in the Thai Army as they learned from us, and we hope to share our lessons learned to help make our Army better.”
To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the engagement, the SFAB began their mission in self-isolation twice. First at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, where the brigade is headquartered, and then again in Bangkok.
“Throughout that two-week quarantine, our Soldiers were monitored by the Royal Thai government and Royal Thai Army, who administered additional tests and screening,” Task Force Commander Lt. Col. David Rowland said.
The Soldiers were tested for COVID-19 by Thai authorities on day 1, 7 and 14 of their quarantine with all Soldiers testing negative.
What started with workshops in a classroom, culminated in the field, with troops from both nations putting their tactical knowledge into practice, Rowland said.
The mission established and maintained a relationship built on mutual trust and respect, 5th SFAB Deputy Commander Col. Andrew Watson said, adding, “this isn’t about the United States telling people they need to do things ‘the American way,’ it’s about understanding what the right way is for [our allies]. If they had questions, or wanted our opinion, we provided it.”
The 5th SFAB is designed to operate with 820 professional advisors specially selected, trained, and equipped to advise, support, liaise, and assess with conventional partner security forces from the battalion to corps levels in order to build capacity and the ability to achieve regional security in support of U.S. national interests. When called upon, the unit can employ up to 61 advisor teams in support of a combatant commander to integrate with conventional foreign partner security forces.