An Army infantryman moved ahead after he and other platoon members exited their Stryker armored vehicle, rear, in rough terrain at the Army's Yakima, Wash., Training Center last year. Soldiers from Fort Lewis were breaking in the first set of their new Stryker vehicles on the rolling, rocky hills.

Stryker units usher
in new era of combat

Funding for a Hawaii unit
remains in question

By Linda Ashton
Associated Press

YAKIMA TRAINING CENTER, Wash. >> High atop the dusty sagebrush hills of central Washington, the Army is training two new combat teams designed to bring the lethality of heavy forces and the mobility of light brigades to the battlefield.

The nation's first two Stryker Brigade Combat teams -- high-tech, versatile units designed for eventual deployment anywhere in the world within 96 hours -- are based at Fort Lewis south of Tacoma.

"We are going to go fight," said Col. Robert Brown, commander of the Stryker Brigade that will be deployed in May 2004. "It's like going to the Super Bowl, and you have one and a half years to get ready."

Four other Stryker brigades are being formed at Fort Polk, La., and in Alaska, Hawaii and Pennsylvania. However, the Pentagon has not yet made a final decision to fund the Schofield Barracks-based and Pennsylvania-based units.

As the United States prepares for the possibility of invading Iraq, the officers at Fort Lewis say their mission is to be prepared for anything from peacekeeping to a major war.

"Our only intent is to make sure we are trained and ready to go wherever the president wants us to go," said Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano, commander at the base south of Tacoma.

Part of the greater Army transformation to new fighting capabilities, the 3,500-troop Stryker Brigade Combat teams are quick-strike units born of modern-day troubles in places like Somalia, Bosnia and Afghanistan.

"We're changing because the world is changing," said Col. John Carmichael of the Brigade Coordination Cell. "This is a new and unique organization."

The Stryker brigades are especially well-suited for small-scale, regional conflicts, he said.

"If we can get a force to one of these quickly, we have a chance to get it under control," he said.

Preparation for global duty includes several days of intense action for hundreds of soldiers at the 505-square-mile Yakima Training Center.

Concussive booms of mortar rounds send huge plumes of dust and smoke into the desert sky. The popcorn sounds of high-powered M-4 rifle fire echo in the canyons as camouflaged infantry men charge out of trenches toward bullet-scarred plywood "villages" where molded plastic "enemies" lurk in the corners and old computers represent information centers that need to be destroyed.

With each combat team comes 309 Strykers, eight-wheeled, armored vehicles that can be outfitted in 10 different ways, with everything from a 105 mm cannon for a mobile gun system to a completely wired command center.

The 19-ton Stryker vehicles are named for two soldiers, Pfc. Stuart S. Stryker, who served in World War II, and Spec. Robert F. Stryker, who served in Vietnam.

As an infantry carrier vehicle, the Stryker has a 60 mph top speed and can hold a nine-man squad and a two-man crew, meaning that soldiers don't have to expend all their energy walking.

"You go a lot farther a lot faster, and you're not tired when you get there," said Capt. Jasper Jeffers, a company commander.

With the extensive complement of digital communication and surveillance gear that allows information-sharing like never before among those in the field, soldiers will spend a lot less time on the radio, asking, "Where are you?"

Information is critical, but the soldiers are more so, said Col. Mike Rounds, commander of the Stryker Brigade that is to be ready for deployment next May.

"These are a tool. It's still the boots on the ground that win the fight," he said. "We're an infantry-centric organization. If we step away from the infantry ethos, we're missing the point."

The Stryker brigades will fill a gap in the Army's capabilities between heavy and light forces and also serve a precursor for the new combat capabilities the Army wants to start deploying by the end of the decade, said John Pike, director of, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit defense policy group.

"The Stryker's also giving the Army the capability the Marine Corps have had for roughly two decades," with its light-armored vehicles, he said.

"The U.S. Army has not historically been a big fan of armored cars -- they've had jeeps and tanks, but these hybrid vehicles have not been much to their taste."

They are now.

"These Stryker brigades are currently the Army's flagship transformation initiative -- the hot button at (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld's Pentagon," Pike said.

One of the key features of the teams is the Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron, equipped with Shadow unmanned aerial vehicles -- a type of drone -- to "see the enemy over the hill," the Prophet electronic intelligence system and the Javelin portable anti-tank missile.

In traditional combat, soldiers typically first found the enemy in a direct encounter and then maneuvered on the enemy. But with units such as the RSTA Squadron, "before we even come in contact with the enemy, we know where the enemy is," Soriano said.

"We've got an advantage over the enemy that we've never had before. We'll save soldiers lives with this."

Stryker teams on the way

The Army's first two Stryker Brigade Combat teams, based at Fort Lewis, are expected to be ready for deployment in May 2003 and May 2004. The 3,500-troop brigades are made up of several units that train and will deploy together. The units are:

>> Three infantry battalions.
>> Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Squadron.
>> Artillery battalion.
>> Support battalion.
>> Anti-tank company.
>> Military intelligence company.
>> Engineer company.
>> Signal company.

Source: U.S. Army

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --