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Amry's 'ghost riders': Stryker units win over skeptics.

THE NATION'S FIRST TWO STRYKER BRIGADES EACH have completed a year-long tour in Iraq. Their combined combat experiences have taught the Army and critics much about the effectiveness of the Stryker vehicle as well as the brigade, itself.

"The Stryker, as a vehicle, has proven its worth. It has saved lives," said Maj. Nicholas Mullen, rear detachment commander of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, which is known as the second Stryker brigade combat team.

Since the Army first announced the establishment of a new medium force of fighters in 1999 and selected the Stryker vehicle as its platform in 2000, the Stryker brigade has been under constant scrutiny. That attention has focused almost exclusively upon the 19-ton, eight-wheeled armored vehicle for which the brigade is named.

"We were getting all the attacks about why the Stryker is too heavy, too big, too tall, too wheeled," said Col. Michael Peppers, director of the G37 Division at Fort Lewis, Wash., where the two brigades are based.

Early on, the Government Accountability Office questioned the Stryker's transportability aboard a C-130.

"It does fit on a C-130. I've flown in one with it," said Lt. Col. William James, deputy commander of 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, also known as the first Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

The vehicle, designed to carry a nine-man squad and two-man crew, has shown that its survivability, agility, mobility and technology is effective in an urban combat zone where the enemy strikes at any time in numerous ways, said Peppers.

"It is the vehicle of choice from what we've seen [in Iraq]--incredibly robust, can take a lot of punishment. I've seen it hit with multiple rocket-propelled grenades and keep going. I've seen it hit with vehicle-borne bombs that you wonder how anybody could have survived--and everybody walks away," said Mullen.

During a recent visit to Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, soldiers and officers who fought in Iraq defended the vehicle with passionate praise.

"I'm going back for a second year in Iraq, and I'm damn glad I'm going in a Stryker," said James of 3/2. The first Stryker brigade is training for deployment next summer (see related story).

Not only did the Stryker vehicle have to contend with outside critics, but it also had to win over the soldiers as well, especially those who had been in heavy units before joining the brigade.

"We were all thinking, is this going to work or not?" said Jeffrey Du, brigade command sergeant major for 3/2.

"I was a skeptic a couple of years ago," said Maj. Doug Baker, executive officer of the 5th Bat talion, 20th Infantry Regiment, one of the three infantry battalions in 3/2. He worked in the Joint Readiness Training Center at Ft. Polk before being assigned to the brigade. "When the brigade came through its Joint Readiness Training Center rotation, you saw platoons and companies using Stryker in different variations. Some tried to fight it like a Bradley, others dismounted way back, didn't use it to really close in to the objective and moved in several clicks. And others, in between," he said.

"If you were off-road in Louisiana, there was a tendency to get stuck. You really couldn't get the Stryker through some areas where a Ford F-250 would get through." On the other hand, "once you were on a highway, you're going 70 miles an hour very easily," he said.

Once he was on the ground in Iraq doing missions with the battalion, it didn't take long for him to become a Stryker convert.

"When you rolled out the gate, you were fairly confident that that vehicle was going to take care of you," said Baker. "I'm familiar with what a Bradley can do. It's a fantastic vehicle, but I would take a Stryker over it in Iraq any day."

The vehicle, which is produced by General Dynamics Land Systems, has protected the troops against numerous threats in Iraq, including improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs, rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), mines and small arms fire, according to soldier accounts.

"During our year there, not a single soldier died inside a Stryker vehicle. There were a couple of soldiers riding who were hit, but nobody died inside a vehicle. And there were penetrations that were fairly catastrophic," said Lt. Col. Barry Huggins, commander of the 2-3 Infantry Battalion, who served as the first Stryker Brigade's executive officer in Iraq.

Stryker Brigade combat teams, designed as an earlyentry force that fills the gap between light and heavy forces, are infantry-centric units composed of three infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, an artillery battalion, a support battalion and four companies--military intelligence, engineer, signal and anti-tank. Approximately 310 Strykers support each brigade.

The Stryker's armor protects against 14.5 mm rounds. Before deploying to Iraq, the first Stryker brigade acquired slat armor that could be added to the vehicle to protect soldiers from RPGs. The 5,200-pound armor wraps around the sides of the vehicle and deflects RPGs, which then explode away from the vehicle.

"I was here [at Fort Lewis] when they came up with the slat armor. Everybody's like, 'oh, it's a birdcage. It'll never do anything,'" recounted Mullen. A month into operations in Iraq, his unit was doing a cordon-and-search operation with the Iraqi army at a mosque in Mosul. "We'd gotten a tip that insurgents were holding a meeting in one of the rooms off the mosque. I'm 50 feet from a Stryker that got hit with three rocket-propelled grenades. And everybody's okay. One kid got a little shrapnel from a mortar round," he said.

But the Center for Army Lessons Learned released a report in late December 2004 that suggested the slat armor was only effective against half of the RPG attacks that the first Stryker brigade soldiers faced. It also found the additional weight compromised the maneuverability of the vehicle.

"There were physically very few places that we couldn't go within that urban terrain," said Mullen. "If there was blocking on one side of the street, you'd just jump the curb and drive down the other side of the street. Well, you can do that in a Stryker, and it doesn't destroy the infrastructure that's there. With a tank or Bradley, you're crushing things when you do that," he said.

The 1/25 has put 5 million miles on its Stryker vehicles.

"We just drive them all over the place. And they have really held up well under that kind of constraint. I don't think any of that was foreseen by the Army when it purchased the vehicles," said Mullen.

The Stryker operational readiness rate was in the high 90s routinely, which is way above Army standard, said Huggins, of 3/2. "That's in part a function of the vehicle, in part it's a function of the tremendous contractor support it came with. They put in place a very effective system that did a tremendous job of keeping our combat power available to us," he said.

Powered by a 350-horsepower engine, called the Caterpillar, that is found in other Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTVs), the Stryker can travel more than 300 miles at speeds in excess of 60 miles an hour on one tank of gas. Despite such power and heft, the vehicle comes with an unexpected bonus.

"Strykers are incredibly quiet," said Mullen.

So quiet that some Iraqis call the soldiers who operate them, "ghost riders," a moniker that arose following a night-time operation in Samarra during which eight platoons raided a 10 by 10 km section of the city without disrupting neighbors sleeping near the targeted homes, said James of 3/2.

In the parking lot outside the 3/2 headquarters at Fort Lewis in late August, a Stryker Commander's Vehicle idled on high, emitting a whine that sounded like a high-powered vacuum cleaner. According to the soldiers who accompanied a National Defense reporter aboard, that is as loud as the vehicles get.

Sitting inside the vehicle, Cpl. Derald Wise touched a 10-inch color screen monitor attached to a swivel arm and punched up a digital map of Fort Lewis. On the map, green icons appeared.

The system, Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below, known as FBCB2, gives soldiers access to a secure wireless network that allows them to share data quickly and efficiently across an entire battlefield without having to resort to radio contact.

One function of FBCB2 allows soldiers to see their own vehicle as an icon on a map along with other friendly vehicles. And if an enemy has been sighted, they can put it on the map as well, explained Col. Steven Townsend, commander of the 3/2.

Leaders on each Stryker can send graphics and messages through these systems, greatly enhancing the team's situational awareness.

"We can share graphics, overlays, and can even do rehearsals while on the move. Five minutes later, we can hit the objective and be synchronized," said Capt. Teddy Kleisner, company commander for Bravo 1-23.

"FBCB2 is a great system with some growth potential. It allows us to dynamically change our mission on the go," said Maj. Joseph Davidson, executive officer for 3/2. In Iraq, he commanded a Stryker as executive officer for the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry.

"A process that would normally take up to an hour or two, I'm doing it in minutes. It's a very powerful capability for tactical planning and execution," he said. For instance, he cited a situation where a high-value target was identified in his squadron's area of operation. Within 10 minutes of receiving a cell phone call in the operations center, he had sent the mission and graphics to the subordinate troop commander, who within 30 minutes had completed a cordon, and within 45 minutes, had begun the raid.

Such information was previously available only to commanding officers, but now soldiers in the field have access to data.

"I like the fact that our sergeants, in our Strykers, have almost the same view of the battlefield that I do. I think that's a good thing," said Townsend.

Before Townsend took command of 3/2, his predecessor invited him to Iraq to see the capabilities of the Strykers. Townsend saw first-hand how having such a digital system aboard can prove advantageous in avoiding potential conflicts out on missions.

"As we rolled out on a mission one day, a couple of kilometers away an IED went off. And there was an ambush. The unit that was in that contact populated FBCB2 with the enemy at that location: 'IED and an ambush.' As we proceeded with our mission, I forgot about it. An hour or so later, we're driving near that area and a voice comes on the earphones in the helmet and says, 'warning, enemy in area.' I looked at the screen, and sure enough, there was a red icon that had been there for an hour," said Townsend.

The first Stryker Brigade began relieving the 101st Airborne Division in Northern Iraq and Mosul in Nov. 2003.

"To come in behind them and try to keep progress moving was a challenge," said Huggins.

Not only was the Stryker Brigade a significantly smaller unit than the 101st--with 3,864 soldiers compared to approximately 18,000--but it also covered more ground than it was originally designed to cover.

"That battlespace that we operated in was 25 times what we were envisioned to do--50 by 50 kilometer blocks is how they designed the brigade. And what we ended up doing was covering a 276 by 226 kilometer box, around 48,000 square kilometers as opposed to 2,500. That is phenomenal," said Huggins.

"One of the better acquisitions for us was a commercial off-the-shelf satellite system that allowed us to expand our bandwidth and gave us the technical means to kind of realize the vision of digital command and control," said Huggins. The brigade went from an essentially dial-up speed to digital satellite technology that allowed it to do many things, such as pass large files such as photographs across a huge battlespace, he said. They were also able to establish their own e-mail server at the brigade level, he said.

Such connectivity and real-time situational awareness gave commanders unprecedented ability to move and deploy soldiers outside of a unit's operating area.

"We found ourselves becoming the theater commander's unit of choice when he had to respond to a contingency somewhere that required a quick movement for a long period of time," said Huggins. "To try to command and control a brigade of this complexity, across a battlespace like that, with grease pencils and a map or stickles, I can't conceive it. I don't know how you would do that anymore," said Huggins.

Besides the tactical and operational enhancements the FBCB2 technology provides, it also has played a key role in preventing deaths.

"There are instances where I'm convinced fratricide was prevented and response times were cut significantly and forces were oriented properly and de-conflicted solely because of that piece of technology, put into the hands of people who understood how to use it, and understood its capabilities and embraced it," said Huggins.

The success of the first two Stryker Brigades has fueled more confidence in the capabilities of the vehicle. But as the brigades continue to transform, soldiers in those brigades continue to evaluate strategies for best utilizing the Stryker.

"Even after spending a year in Iraq, we haven't perfected how to use the vehicle. Where is the optimum place to put it? Do you drive straight up to the house that you need to, dismount there, breach it, go in, grab the bad guys, or do you somewhere in between establish a cordon with the vehicles and then move in dismounted? There's a myriad of techniques. And none of them are wrong. Each one of the battalions probably does everything a little bit differently. And we're still figuring it out," said Baker.

RELATED ARTICLE: Stryker brigades train for upcoming deployment.

The first Stryker brigade is preparing to put boots on the ground again next summer. At Fort Lewis, Wash., where the brigade is based, soldiers have access to several training facilities and technologies that fuse intelligence from the theater directly into their training.

"What we're trying to do, in near real-time, is take lessons learned from what's going on in Mosul everyday, and crank it back into the training we're doing here," said Bobby Jolley, director of the Battle Command Training Center on post.

When the first Stryker brigade, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, was on the ground in Iraq in late 2003, those involved in training the second Stryker brigade--the Fort Lewis-based 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division-realized they had a resource in the battlefield that they could tap. An operations center was established in the mission support training facility (MSTF) to keep in daily contact with the 3/2.

"We had commanders--senior commissioned officers, sergeant majors, battalion sergeants, majors--from the unit here, that was going over there, talking by video teleconference out of our operations center on a daily basis," said Jolley.

In a sense, the commanders were participating in a type of training that the Army calls "right-seat rides" from around the globe through the Jacobsen Operations Center, which was named for a Stryker soldier who died in Iraq.

Units from the 1/25 would walk into MSTF and train on missions that the 3/2 was actually conducting on the ground.

"We could go in there, and we could find out what was going on, on the ground-here are the operations that they're doing. We could read their after-action reports or their operations orders. We were able to take real-world intelligence, all the maps, everything for the area that we were going into and actually work through that process," said Maj. Nicholas Mullen, rear detachment commander of the 1/25. "The training was all at the secret level, so we were using what we would use there. And it got us into that mindset of, okay, this is where we are going."

All of that training paid off when the second Stryker brigade deployed to relieve the first brigade.

"The second brigade, when they got there, because of the right-seat rides and because of the up-to-date training that they had, became fully combat-ready in a much shorter period of time," said Jolley.

"That totally led to our success," said Mullen.

When in theater, the second Stryker brigade found it could benefit from the daily contact with the MSTE Commanders could "reach back" for resources not readily available on the battlefield.

The 1/25, for example, had a suspect in custody, but wanted additional intelligence on some of his operations, said Jolley. The commander requested assistance from the people in the center.

"And these guys here fingered him in a few hours. And therefore, the brigade kept this guy in custody and was able to reach out and get some of the other figures around him," said Jolley.

"I'm very comfortable, when I go into theater, that I can pick up the phone, or I can send an e-mail back to the people at MSTF and say, 'Hey, I'm going to do this operation, and I'd like you to run a couple of courses of action in a war game and tell me how they come out,'" said Col. Steven Townsend, commander of 3/2.

As it trains up for deployment, 3/2 finds itself on the receiving end of things at the training centers.

"What we've been able to do since we came back is go back and use MSTF," said Maj. Doug Baker, executive officer of the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment. His battalion is able to attain pertinent mission information from the brigade on the ground, in this case, from 1/25.

"We get that order, their graphics, their mission and go through the planning process and then have the company commanders and the platoon leaders fight those fights in simulated 3-D."

The brigade's military intelligence company has ensconced itself inside the Jacobsen Operations Center since it returned. Everyday, it works on the classified systems, pulling intelligence from 1/25 and building it for the brigade to use when it returns to Iraq, he said.

In late August, two Strykers and a tactical operations center are parked outside on the MSTF pad and plugged into system. Soldiers from the 1-23 infantry stand in a circle, taking a break from the training.

"These guys love to come here," said Matt McCarthy, the Science Applications International Corp. program manager at MSTF. SAIC runs the facility.

Inside one of the many spacious rooms at the new $23 million battle command training center, adjacent to the MSTF on post, eight simulators--each composed of several touch-screen monitors, a steering wheel and a joystick-sit upon tables arranged in a large, C-shaped pod. With these virtual vehicle systems, soldiers learn how to navigate the eight-wheeled, 19-ton Stryker, to use its weapons systems and to use the commander technologies on board.

Tanks have full-immersion simulators, said William Belue, training simulations team chief within the training integration branch at the center. But "there is no such thing for the Stryker," he said. To get a similar sort of immersion experience, soldiers can mount one of the $100,000 simulators inside a mock-up of the Stryker vehicle and use that for training, perhaps in conjunction with a firearms simulation exercise in one of the engagement skills training sites located on post, he said.

Once soldiers have gained the basic skills on the Stryker, their unit commanders can walk into the center and set up virtual training exercises, said Belue. The simulations team will design scenarios from scratch, based upon each unit's needs.

Depending on the scenario and the desired quality of virtual environment, it can take the team anywhere between a few days to several months to craft a simulation, he said.

The system these designers use most is the joint conflict and tactical simulations, or JCATS, said Jolley.

"What JCATS gives you is entity-level resolution, which means the individual soldier, the individual Stryker vehicle, is modeled in the simulation," said Lt. Col. Mark Edgren, chief of the mission support training facility. "It allows [soldiers] to really optimize their training for a full-up battlefield condition."

The designers incorporate vignettes based upon situations that units have encountered in Iraq into JCATS to give soldiers applicable training for deployment.

"There are situations that occur over and over--going on patrol, clearing convoy routes. We apply the existing simulations to them," said Jolley.

"We created scenarios, where the young corporal was being told: You're standing on a corner. It's two o'clock in the morning. You're running a checkpoint. There are two cars screaming around the corner, coming at you. What do you do now? And by the way, the CNN camera is running over there," said Col. Mike Peppers, director of the G37 Division at Fort Lewis, which is responsible for training, readiness, force management, strategic change and initiatives and analysis.

Soldiers are also taught how to handle duties three levels above their own so that "platoon leaders can step up and become company commanders," said Capt. Teddy Kleisner, company commander for Bravo 1-23.

"We try to place our leaders in very uncertain situations. We continually throw curve balls at them, so what they find on the battlefield is not exactly what they were told they would find on the battlefield. They have to be able to react flexibly to what they actually find," said Townsend.

Behind the battle command training center lies a forest where units can take their green tents, vehicles and computers, set up a tactical operations center and plug into the center's fixed tactical internet and run simulations, said Edgren.

Between the two training facilities stands a tall communications tower that enables the fixed tactical internet.

"That gives us a capability so that the Stryker unit can train in the simulation center. They can train on the pad outside there and that's just plug and play because we have the tactical interface points outside the building," said Jolley. "Or they can be in the training area, here at Fort Lewis. They can be in the training center at [nearby] Yakima. Or for that matter, they can be across the world."

Part of the challenge of having a digitally-enabled force like the Stryker brigade is that the retraining requirements for the soldiers is greatly increased, said Jolley.

"Every week or two, there's a new course that starts covering all of the ABCS, Army Battle Command Systems, to train not only the new soldiers coming in, but the new officers and NCOs that are reassigned," said Jolley. "That's a departure from Army doctrine, because individual training is typically done in the training centers by the Training and Doctrine Command. Our experience here is that that really doesn't do the job," he said. Some soldiers come in with digital training; some don't, he explained.

In the case of the first Stryker brigade, the soldiers came from various backgrounds, a mix of heavy and light units. But they all needed to learn how to negotiate the Stryker's communications systems.

"We had to go to something called "digital university" on North Fort," said Jeffrey Du, brigade command sergeant major for 3/2, as he surveyed soldiers from brigade's three battalions out on a field competing for the Expert Infantry Badge.

While digital training is obviously a necessity for the Stryker brigade, maintaining infantryman training is also key.

"We have tried to get back to basics, and not have everything Iraq-focused, because even though we are slotted to go back next year, we could end up anywhere," said Baker.

The brigade's training focus has been on the individual soldier from the start.

"Every soldier is trained as a potential leader. There are no followers in Stryker Brigade," said Lt. Gen. James Dubik, commanding general of I Corps and Fort Lewis.

RELATED ARTICLE: Army transformation modeled after stryker units.

Stryker Brigade combat teams are playing a key role in Iraq. In the long term, they also are proving to be pivotal in the Army's transformation, said officials at Fort Lewis, Wash., where the initial two brigades were formed.

"We have learned so much from this organization that we are able to accelerate into modularity much faster than we thought," said Lt. Gen. James Dubik, commanding general of I Corps and Fort Lewis.

In part because of the success of the first two Stryker brigades in Iraq, the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, has initiated a force-wide restructuring to make the Army more modular, including the Stryker brigades, which can be deployed quickly.

Schoomaker is calling these modular combat forces "units of action."

"These are units that can be employed to do anything from humanitarian assistance, to engineering projects, to multiple fire support, to combined arms brigades," said Dubik.

Many of those tasks have fallen into the hands of the Stryker brigades in Iraq. Because of the brigade's infantry-centric structure and the organic units that have been incorporated into its force, Stryker soldiers have been able to excel at multiple missions in Iraq.

"It's the soldiers in the back of those vehicles that really make the difference. Because they're the ones that get on the ground and physically interact, both positively with the civilian populous and also hunt down and destroy the enemy," said Maj. Nicholas Mullen, rear-detachment commander of 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, also known as the second Stryker Brigade. "That's one of the keys to a Stryker brigade. And kind of how it is transforming the Army, is saying, 'you can have tanks and you can have Bradleys and all sorts of weapons systems, but it's really that soldier that's going to make the difference in these type of conflicts and the conflicts that we see in the future.'"

Schoomaker also said that he needs more total brigades, noted Col. Michael Peppers, director of the G37 division at Ft. Lewis that is responsible for training, readiness, force management, strategic change, and initiatives and analysis.

"An Army of 33 active component brigades, with roughly 22 Guard brigades, is not going to keep up with our changed strategic condition, our reality in Afghanistan, our emerging reality in Iraq. We need to get out of the old format and into the new format of a modular force faster," he said.

In January 2004, the Defense Department approved an increase in the number of brigade combat team units of action from 33 to 43 by the year 2007.

There are three designs for these units of action: infantry, heavy and Stryker. The infantry and heavy units of action will have two maneuver battalions while the Stryker will continue to have three. They will also have an armed reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition squadron, a fires battalion, a support battalion and a brigade troops battalion.

"One of the problems we have today in Strykers is that they have four to five separate little companies with no battalion commander over them. It frays a little bit of the leadership of the brigade because they have to go watch out for those companies," said Peppers. Because of that, the Army created a brigade troops battalion for the units of action.

By restructuring the organization of the Army now, it will facilitate the transition into the future combat force.

"We're moving into that organizational design now," said Peppers. "When technology gives us a future combat system, we already will be in that format so the changeover will be like it was in the 1980s, where it was principally an equipment swap-out."

The Army has a long history of transforming, of changing its doctrine, its structure and its tactics, said Dubik. The transformation of the Stryker brigades began the Army's largest restructuring since World War II.

In 1990, "it was apparent to senior leaders of the Army that the end of the Cold War, the end of Communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall, was a huge strategic shift," said Dubik. "It was absolutely apparent that information technology would change the tools with which war would be fought."

Gen. Gordon Sullivan, the Army's chief of staff at the time, was searching for a different kind of force, one that did not yet exist, said Peppers.

"What we had was something that was very strategically responsive in the light forces, but didn't possess a lot of lethality and survivability," he said. The heavy forces were at the opposite end of the equation. "So we were looking for a medium force," he said.

The Army began experimenting in the virtual world through an entity called "Louisiana Maneuvers," said Dubik.

"That was an effort to get the Army's head into the new problem sets of the 21st century," said Peppers.

Then it conducted a set of war-fighting experiments in the mid 1990s using a light brigade from Fort Drum, N.Y., at the National Training Center at Fort Erwin, Calif., and a heavy brigade from Fort Hood, Tex., at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.

"There were opportunities for many concepts, ideas and schoolhouse thought processes that could get in that experiment set and get outcomes," said Peppers.

At that point, the U.S. also was dealing with Kosovo and the struggle to move forces rapidly into Albania and up to the border to put pressure on the Serbians, said Peppers.

The chief of staff of the Army at that time, Gen. Erik Shinseki, "came in and said, 'enough, we're going to do this, and when we do it, we're not going to experiment. We're literally going to start this thing, and then that brigade is going to be an existing Army force, and it's going to go do Army work and deployments, and it's going to do it on a very tight schedule,'" said Peppers.

In October 1999, Shinseki announced the transformation of the first two Stryker Brigades, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division--a heavy brigade--and the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division--a light brigade--both part of I Corps at Fort Lewis.

"Boy, was that controversial," said Peppers. "Some people look back and say, 'oh, we should've had the light brigade go first,' because everyone would've said, 'that's a value added. You're increasing your capability instead of taking down.'"

"On the other hand, if you really wanted to get all the cards on the table and get the cultural change of transformation started and the large Army discussion about that, that was the braver call," he said.

Dubik pointed out these first two Stryker Brigades were formed with three purposes in mind: to learn about the operational capability of such a force, to spur thought about moving toward a future combat force, and to create a function of change within the Army.

"If we create six of these Stryker Brigades, this will force all the systems to change," said Dubik.

To help in the transformation process, the Army provided a team of experts and senior officials who were on hand to deal with issues that arose.

"Fort Lewis got this infusion of institutional Army, not distance help, not checks-in-the-mail help, but living here and having to figure out the hard questions," said Peppers. "Ultimately, we wanted this brigade to have what we call strategic mobility, to be able to get out the door." In November 2000, the Army put in orders for the Stryker vehicle through General Dynamic Land Systems.

Critics quickly jumped on the Army for opting for a new vehicle rather than using an existing platform. "The critics were saying, 'I could've given you a 113 yesterday. Why are you waiting?'" said Peppers.

"If we had taken the old carrier, M-113, it would've been cheaper, no doubt about it. But we wouldn't have been able to change the logistics system," said Dubik.

The first Stryker rolled off the assembly line and into the hands of the first Stryker Brigade in June 2002.

"No one thought we'd be able to do that," said Dubik. "It took us from 1990 to 1999 to do the conceptual and experimental work necessary to get to Strykers. That's about 10 years worth of thinking. So when we needed Stryker, we had already done the deep thinking, and we fielded it quickly."

The first Stryker Brigade, the 3/2, had been training upon surrogate vehicles, LAV Ills, borrowed from Canada. Once the Strykers landed in their hands, training took off, said Peppers. The 3/2 went through back-to-back training exercises at Fort Erwin and Fort Polk, La., and demonstrated the capabilities of the brigade and the Strykers.

"As June 2003 comes, we've had good success with the first one of these, in fact, so good that we're already working our way through the final reports to DOD and Congress so that there can be a waiver for it to go up and be a part of the force in Iraq," said Peppers.

The 3/2 deployed to Iraq in November 2003 and was replaced by the 1/25 last fall.

"They're working out exactly as we intended. They're providing an operational capability that surpassed our expectations," said Dubik.

"I think transformation was a huge success. Not just the idea of the Stryker Brigade, but the way the institutional Army came together to go about it. The way Fort Lewis supported the whole process and really put some intellectual energy behind it. We've proven that it's possible to transform the Army while you're at war and that's one remarkable achievement," said Huggins.

But he added, "Our role in transformation is still not over. The Stryker brigades continue to evolve. Stryker brigades four, five and six will look different than one, two and three. And changes that they make will backfill into us."
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Title Annotation:GROUND COMBAT
Author:Jean, Grace
Publication:National Defense
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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