Strykers ordered to Afghanistan
February 20, 2009
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - The 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division will become the first Stryker brigade combat team to deploy to Afghanistan in the global war on terrorism.
Fifth Brigade, the Army's newest SBCT and the fourth Stryker brigade formed at Fort Lewis, will take its approximately 3,900 troops to that country sometime during mid-summer 2009. This will be the brigade's first deployment.
Originally, the brigade was expected to deploy to Iraq. Fort Lewis' I Corps headquarters and 3rd Brigade, are still headed there. I Corps will hold its deployment ceremony next week. Currently, 5th Brigade's Soldiers and equipment are at the U.S. Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., through the end of February for the brigade's Mission Rehearsal Exercise. Formed, equipped and trained at Fort Lewis, starting in November 2006, the unit is commanded by Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV. The brigade's senior NCO is Command Sgt. Maj. Robert A. Prosser.
The 5th Brigade subordinate battalions include: 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment (Thundering Herd); 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment (Tomahawks); 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment (Cold Steel); 3rd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery; 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment; and 402nd Brigade Support Battalion.
Five separate companies - 572nd Military Intelligence Company; 562nd Engineer Company; Alpha Company, 52nd Infantry Battalion; 21st Signal Company; and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division - are also assigned to 5th Brigade.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the deployment of 5th Brigade and a Marine Expeditionary Brigade to Afghanistan. The two additional combat units will provide more than 12,000 troops to the International Security Assistance Force there.
While this is the first time Strykers will be used in Afghanistan, published reports indicate that Canada's "Grizzly" armored personnel carrier is already operating there. The Grizzly is a six-wheeled, 14-ton APC that can carry up to nine personnel, including crew.
Captain Edward Graham, commander of A Company, 4-23 Inf., 5th Bde., previously served in Afghanistan and said he believes the Stryker will fare well there.
"I've often thought in previous times that I've been in Afghanistan that there are certain areas of that country where the vehicle would be very useful," said Graham, taking a moment from training at Fort Irwin to speak with the Northwest Guardian.
Graham added that the Stryker vehicle will "get infantry squads to the fight quickly ... It's a great vehicle, so I think it will do well there. Right now, these (Soldiers) are focused on Afghanistan, and they're ready to go there."
First Sergeant Joseph Wilson, A Co. first sergeant, noted that the change in destination will present new opportunities and challenges for the brigade.
"I think we'll have to do more dismounted operations, and our rehearsals between now and then will focus more on air assaults, pathfinder operations and sling-loading training," Wilson said. "There are some places in the mountains, villages and towns where the Strykers won't be able to go."
Sergeant William Golden of the 572nd MI Co. said he wasn't really surprised that the brigade's mission had been shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan. Golden added that it was important for Soldiers to "become aware of the cultures, the different languages, the nuances of the tribal system and the slight differences between the way that people respond in Afghanistan as compared to Iraq."
Sergeant Marlon Williams of Alpha Battery, 3-17 FA, agreed that cultural training will become even more important with this new mission.
"It's a different fight, but everybody has been doing their best in training," Williams said. "So everybody knows what they need to do."
Bob Reinert and Phil Sussman are staff members with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian. Sussman reported on this story from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.