VILSECK, Germany – The U.S. Army welcomed the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment to its new home in southern Germany on Friday as the military moved ahead with plans to shed its heavy Cold War divisions in favor of a lighter, more mobile force.
Unlike heavy divisions that take a long time to deploy, Stryker brigades are designed to be airlifted quickly to hotspots, fitting aboard the smaller Hercules C-130 aircraft. The vehicles provide far more protection than a Humvee, but have less firepower and armor than tanks or Bradleys.
Still, soldiers who have been in them in combat say they have held up to tough tests — like rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs.
"There's no vehicle I'd rather be in in Iraq than the Stryker," said Sgt. James Williams, who served with a Stryker mortar unit in Iraq between 2004 and 2005.
He said the terrain in Iraq is primarily hills and desert, and that the diverse topography of southern Germany would give his soldiers a good training opportunity.
"This will make them think outside the box a little bit," the 31-year-old from Bolivar, Tenn., said before the ceremony officially marking the unit's arrival.
The 19-ton, eight-wheeled infantry carriers were named after two Medal of Honor recipients: Pfc. Stuart S. Stryker, who served in World War II, and Spc. Robert F. Stryker, who served in Vietnam. They can be outfitted with a wide range of weapons and armor, depending on where and how they are to be used.
The 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment is made up of about 300 of the vehicles and some 3,900 soldiers.
The military said the ceremony was technically to welcome the unit "back" to Germany, because before it was outfitted with the Strykers it was known as the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which was stationed in the country from 1944 to 1992.
The military's transformation concept foresees replacing the large bases in Germany with smaller, simpler posts in Eastern Europe, where soldiers will rotate through for shorter periods. The Stryker regiment, however, will be more traditional, with soldiers coming for longer and transferring with their families.
The 1st Infantry Division completed its move to Fort Riley, Kansas in August while the 1st Armored Division is currently in Iraq and scheduled to move to Fort Bliss, Texas.