By Spc. Ryan HallockAugust 19, 2011
NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER, Calif. - The Stryker armored fighting vehicle is nearly 20 tons of machinery, including eight wheels and automatic fire power, all at the disposal of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
Transporting these rolling giants of destruction from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to the National Training Center required the unification of commanders, non-commissioned officers, and junior enlisted soldiers to successfully complete the mission.
"The junior enlisted guys are the ones making this push happen," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Schaffner, a squad leader from Blackhawk Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3-2 SBCT and native of Canby, Oregon. "They're pretty much the heart of it. They're physically fit, they're mentally fit, and they're ready for the challenge."
The Arrowhead team loaded over 300 Styrkers onto trains in Washington state three weeks prior to personnel movement on Aug. 4. They were transported by rail to Yermo, Calif., about an hour drive from NTC.
A logistical operation of this magnitude can only run smoothly like a train on its rails for so long. While the vehicles arrived in Yermo, the keys to the locks securing them did not.
This was a minor setback in the beginning of an approximately month-long training exercise. Bolt cutters were busted out, locks were cut, and the convoy was on their way, transporting 30 to 40 vehicles at a time, said Staff Sgt. Jon Reiser, a rifle squad leader from Blackhorse Company.
"Although there have been challenges, like with any deployment, that everybody's seen, we have put the right people in the right places to overcome those challenges," said Maj. Robert D. Halvorson, brigade executive officer, 3-2 SBCT.
Once the Stryker vehicles arrived at NTC, soldiers performed preventative maintenance checks and services to ensure the vehicles were mechanically sound. They were also prepped for the crew system to be installed which blocks command detonations [improvised explosive device] that are activated by radio frequencies, said Reiser.
Arrowhead soldiers worked to get their Stryker vehicle geared up for missions in the California desert.
"This is great terrain for the upcoming deployment," said Schaffner. "This is really going to give the guys a great idea on what to expect in Afghanistan."
For Pfc. David Bellen, a saw gunner from Blackhawk Company, and many Soldiers new to the brigade, this is their first rotation at NTC. Bellen, a native of Vancouver, Wash., said he is looking forward to interacting with Afghan role players.
"My goal is to have them treat this like we're actually in combat," said Schaffner. "That way they're prepared for the upcoming deployment which is just around the corner."
Schaffner attributes the successes of the Arrowhead team to the close working relationship between officers and NCOs.
"The dissemination of information getting put out is what makes the operation go real smooth," said Schaffner.
Now that the Stryker vehicles have been successfully transported over a 1,000 miles to NTC and equipment installed, the soldiers of the Arrowhead Brigade are ready to tear the desert up.