The changing face of Army collaboration in Afghanistan centers on the Security Force Assistance Team. SFATs train Afghan Security Forces — Afghan National Army and police units — the skills necessary to guide their county through the dangers and challenges they face now and in the future.

The changing face of Army collaboration in Afghanistan centers on the Security Force Assistance Team. SFATs train Afghan Security Forces — Afghan National Army and police units — the skills necessary to guide their county through the dangers and challenges they face now and in the future.
To further improve an already proven program, Command Sgt. Maj. William Johnson, senior enlisted leader for the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and senior trainer for operational forces in Afghanistan, attended a Command Sergeant Major working group forum on Aug. 14 at Fort Polk’s Joint Readiness Training Center. That he left theater and the fight to visit Fort Polk illustrates the vital importance of the task.
Other attendees included:
-Command Sgt. Maj. Darrin J. Bohn, U.S. Army Forces Command, command sergeant major at Fort Bragg, N.C.
-Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher K. Greca, command sergeant major, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth; Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and Senior Enlisted Advisor, Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance.
- and Command Sgt. Maj. Lance P. Lehr, National Training Center and Fort Irwin CSM.
The forum’s mission, according to Johnson, was to discuss issues concerning whether the SFAT training is exactly what is needed by Security Force Assistance, which encompasses all ISAF missions to support ANSF operational effectiveness. SFA is under continuous review to ensure the teams have the right skills and the proper composition, said Johnson.
“What we’ve done is brought in key sergeant majors from across the Army that have varied experiences," he said. "We want to sit down at a table and consider what we are doing currently and fine-tune it. We are discussing matters such as ‘Do we have the right amount of team members?’ ‘Are we doing it right?’ ‘Can we do it better?’ We are just trying to figure out exactly what will be the best fit for the missions we are doing now in Afghanistan and in the future."
Fort Polk’s 162nd Infantry Brigade is tasked with training SFAT soldiers prior to deployment.
“I think the training conducted at JRTC is probably the best in the world," Johnson said. "It prepares our soldiers to go down range and train Afghan soldiers. They have training dialed in to where we want it. I think it’s just a matter of getting the right people here and preparing them at home station prior to coming to JRTC."
Currently, Johnson said SFATs are comprised of 12 to 18 senior noncommissioned officers and officers because they have the right experience and skills to accomplish the mission. 
The other part of the equation is the Afghans themselves. They are doing a great job as SFATs better prepare them to take over in 2014, according to Johnson.
However, one large challenge still exists. Soldiers working to complete this mission are facing what Johnson said is called “insider threat” — when SFAT soldiers are killed by Afghan Security Forces.
Soldiers always have to be conscious of what’s going on around them, said Johnson.
“They have to be prepared for any threat when we are going in country, but being aware of their surroundings, getting to know their Afghan partners better and working with them side by side can help protect them now and in the future," he said. "We think the closer the relationship is, the safer our soldiers will be.
“I think the thing we want to get across is we’ve got a great relationship with our Afghan partners, but the insider threat is real," Johnson said. "What everyone needs to understand is that it’s not a typical Afghan soldier that is the threat. It’s the insurgent’s way of getting to us.”
The SFATs primary role is to advise Afghan units and help them achieve levels of proficiency where they can lead and conduct independent security operations, take the lead in security and hold key terrain districts in post 2014 Afghanistan.
The Afghans understand the lessons the SFATs  are teaching them, said Johnson.
“They are running things and are in charge," he said. "All we do is train, advise and assist. I don’t think there are any issues for 2014. I have no doubt that the Afghan military police understand their role in what they are going to be doing and I’m confident that by 2014 and beyond they are going to be able to handle the security mission for their country."