Military Advisor Training Academy – MATA

MATA - 1st SFAB member undergoing advisor training. (photo by SPC Noelle E. Wiehe, 50th PAD, 23 Oct 2017).
1st SFAB member undergoing advisor training. (photo by SPC Noelle E. Wiehe, 50th PAD, 23 Oct 2017).

MATA – The Military Advisor Training Academy is located at Fort Benning, Georgia. The purpose of the school is to prepare Soldiers for a future assignment as advisors to foreign military forces.

MATA Course Scope. The academy will provide to the student a doctrinal base for understanding the role of the train, advise, and assist (TAA) mission. The student will be able to engage in security cooperation planning and assessment considerations and conduct advisory missions.

Training Objectives. Upon completion of the course the student should have a knowledge, understanding, or be able to demonstrate: [1]

  • Doctrinal training in support of Security Force Assistance (SFA)
  • Demonstrate cultural awareness
  • Demonstrate knowledge of host nation interactions
  • Demonstrate use of Information Operations (IO)
  • Understand the utilization of interpreters
  • Knowledge ad skills necessary to be an advisor

Origins of the MATA Course. The concept development for the course began in November 2016. In March and April 2017 the cadre began their assignment with the MATA at Fort Benning. The first MATA instruction took place in August 2017. The MATA is part of the 316th Cavalry Brigade and the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. The Maneuver Center of Excellence, the Army’s proponent for brigade-level security force assistance, will oversee the academy. The U.S. Army had established an advisor course at Fort Riley, Kansas. This course was later moved to Fort Polk, Louisiana.

The Original MATA. The Fort Benning MATA is not the first MATA that the Army has established. During the early years of the the Vietnam War, U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina conducted a six-week long advisor training course. The Military Assistance Training Advisor (MATA) course was established in 1962 as part of the U.S. Army Special Warfare School. [2] It prepared conventional U.S. Army officers and NCOs for assignments as advisors to Vietnamese Army units. Instructors were Special Forces NCOs highly trained in conducting Foreign Internal Defense (FID) missions. Special Forces from the 1960s and 1970s may fondly remember the “MATA Mile” – a running course through the woods alongside Gruber Road. Students were provided with ST 31-179, MATA Handbook for Vietnam, January 1966. [3]

Training the 1st SFAB. Currently the MATA is preparing Soldiers of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in early 2018. The plan is for every Soldier assigned to an advising team with the brigade to attend the MATA prior to the brigade’s deployment.

SFABs. The Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades are a new, permanent unit purposefully built to train, advise, assist, accompany, and enable (TA3E) allied and partnered indigenous forces. The SFABs help combatant commanders to accomplish theater security objectives. The 1st SFAB is the first brigade to stand up. Five more SFABs will be established; one to be in the Army National Guard.

MATA Instructors. Only Soldiers with recent advisor experience are sought for instructor duty at the academy. The school reaches out to the field (theaters) for information on how to improve the course. The academy will have a cadre of approximately 70 instructors, including some Special Forces Soldiers.

Training. Incorporated in the course are several ‘must know’ topics. One of the more important ones is how to conduct a ‘key leader engagement’ or KLE. Mock KLEs are conducted to provide the opportunity for future advisors to engage with a counterpart while using an interpreter. The KLEs prepare the future advisors with an experience in using face-to-face engagement techniques, cultural understanding, and how to build rapport.

MATA Curriculum. The subject matter introduced in the course is applicable to any location but it can also be tailored for specific geographic regions. Advisor techniques are generally universal. The initial six-week course will be followed by training in foreign languages, cultural studies, and foreign weapons.

Key Attributes. An advisor must have some key attributes to be successful. Some of these key attributes include self-motivation, critical thinking skills, empathy, active listening, and teamwork.

Future. It is planned that the remaining five SFABs will go through advisor training at the academy. For the time being the 3-353rd Armor Battalion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, will continue training Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) to handle security force assistance missions.


Footnotes:

[1] Military Advisor Training Academy (MATA) website
www.benning.army.mil/armor/316thCav/MATA/

[2] Helmus, Todd C., Advising the Command: Best Practices from the Special Operations Advisory Experience in Afghanistan, RAND Corporation, 2015, 38.
www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR949.html

[3] U.S. Army, MATA Handbook for Vietnam, US Army Special Warfare School, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, January 1966 (Revised)

References:

May, Capt. John, Military Advisor Training Academy prepares 1st SFAB as combat advisors, U.S. Army.
www.army.mil/article/197404/

Sheftick, Gary, New Academy Will Train Security Force Assistance Brigades, TRADOC News Center, February 17, 2017.
http://tradocnews.org/new-academy-will-train-security-force-assistance-brigades/

Army creates Security Force Assistance Brigade and Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning, U.S. Army Public Affairs, February 16, 2017.

About John Friberg 101 Articles
John Friberg is the Editor and Publisher of SOF News. He is a retired Command Chief Warrant Officer (CW5 180A) with 40 years service in the U.S. Army Special Forces with active duty and reserve components.