By Kris Osborn, ASA(ALT)May 9, 2011
WARREN, Mich. (Army News Service, May 6, 2011) - What began as an ambitious vision in the minds of Army leaders in 1999 - to build a medium-class armored vehicle able to deploy quickly, transport troops safely, and bring agility and lethality across multiple platforms - has evolved into the battle-tested Stryker vehicle now celebrating its 10-year anniversary.
"Stryker really filled an interesting niche because the heavy forces were too difficult to deploy in certain austere environments," Scott Davis, program executive officer, Ground Combat Systems, said. "But it wasn't just the vehicles. The Army benefited greatly from the concept of putting multiple mission packages on a common platform."
Praising the Stryker platform's numerous technologies and the Soldiers who put them to use, current and former Army leaders, officers, Soldiers and industry partners from General Dynamics Land Systems gathered May 5, 2011, in Sterling Heights, Mich., to attend a program management review and commemorate the anniversary of the Stryker program.
The Stryker vehicle, combat proven in Iraq and Afghanistan, has now logged more than 27 million combat miles with operational readiness rates greater than 96 percent, said Col. Robert Schumitz, Stryker project manager.
"Now, seven combat-ready Stryker Brigades exist with all 10 platforms [variants] in their inventory and the eighth brigade is forming," Schumitz said. "Those seven brigades have completed 14 rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom."
Davis, who previously served as a deputy project manager with the Stryker program, said the Stryker's mobility gives the warfighter an advantage.
"The wheeled system is cheaper to operate and its sheer speed down the main supply routes has allowed it to perform escort roles and some patrolling roles that would have been very difficult to do with a tracked ground vehicle," Davis said.
Formerly called the Interim Armored Vehicle, the Stryker came to be named after two Medal of Honor winners - Pvt. 1st Class Stuart S. Stryker, who served in World War II; and Spc. 4 Robert F. Stryker, who served in Vietnam.
"Though we are here to celebrate the Stryker, it is important to remember that the Stryker was designed for those who fight battles and win wars. It was to give them greater capabilities. People are the most important because they alone deliver on our nation's non-negotiable contract to fight our nation's wars," said keynote speaker retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, current secretary of Veterans Affairs and former chief of staff of the Army.
Shinseki, who completed two combat tours in Vietnam during his 38-year Army
career, oversaw the creation and delivery of the first Stryker vehicle, which rolled off the production line at Anniston Army Depot, Ala., in April 2002.
"We wanted to make our formations more responsive, more deployable, more versatile, more agile, more lethal, more survivable and more sustainable," Shinseki said. "We were merging the extraordinary capabilities of the best light infantry units in the world with the decisive qualities of the best heavy forces in the Army."
Shinseki is credited with successfully speeding up the time frame for Stryker deliveries and shepherding the platform through to its combat debut in Iraq during 2003.
"Modularity was really the Army's vision that Secretary Shinseki championed, " said Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Ga.
"The Army needed a force that was versatile, flexible, digitally capable and networked. The force needed to be packaged on a platform that increased mobility and could be rapidly deployed. The end result of this vision was the Army's Stryker Brigade Combat Team," Brown told an enthusiastic crowd.
"This vision saved hundreds of my Soldiers' lives in combat," Brown added, referring to his years as a Stryker Brigade Combat Team commander. Brown said the Stryker vehicles under his command withstood a full range of enemy attacks to include rockets, small arms fire and improvised explosive devices.
Schumitz told the crowd that 10 years of continuous evolution and improvement within the Stryker program has resulted in the successful manifestation of the original vision for the vehicle.
"In October 1999, a challenge was laid out to the Army which stated, 'We must provide early-entry forces that can operate jointly without access to fixed forward bases, but we still need the power to slug it out and win decisively. Today, our heavy forces are too heavy and our light forces lack staying power,'" Schumitz said. "The Stryker Brigade, a dynamic, agile, lethal force structure, proved to be the solution to those mismatches."
Throughout its years in service, the Stryker has undergone various survivability upgrades and received "kit" applications designed to improve the vehicle's ability to withstand attacks.
"There has been a constant evolution of survivability kits applied to the platform either in anticipation of a threat or in response to a threat," Schumitz said.
In total, 40,000 kits have been applied during the last eight years of combat operations, he added. The various survivability enhancement kits include blast-attenuated seats, additional underbelly armor, slat armor, improved suspension and electronics and extra ballistic shields for gunner protection, among other things.
Maj. Michael Zaharanic, assistant program manager, Stryker modernization, provided an example of the effectiveness of the Driver's Enhancement Kits in Afghanistan.
"The kits included add-on armor and beefed-up metal on the outside of where the driver sits. Right after we put those kits on, a Stryker was hit with an IED on the driver's side. The driver walked away. It was a great day for that driver, for GD [General Dynamics] and the PM [Project Management Office] who put that kit together," he said.
Lt. Col. Joseph Davidson, deputy commanding officer for the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, has deployed three times with Stryker units.
"The Stryker is unique. It is a great vehicle that gives us the operational freedom to move time and time again. Certainly in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, a unit can be re-tasked virtually on the go and support a different mission. When you get down to it, it is about the Soldiers," he said.