By Heather Graham Ashley, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsApril 3, 2012
FORT HOOD, Texas (April 3, 2012) -- With the crack of a champagne bottle, past and present troopers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment opened a new chapter in the regiment's more than 150-year history as Fort Hood leadership joined 3rd Cav troopers for a Stryker Christening Ceremony, April 2, at Fort Hood's Rail Operations Center.
Utilizing a naval tradition dating back thousands of years, Deanie Richardson, wife of Regimental Commander Col. John D. Richardson IV, broke a champagne bottle on the front of a Stryker, officially christening the regiment's fleet, and cementing 3rd Cav's status as the Army's ninth and final Stryker unit. This transition opened yet another chapter in one of the Army's most legendary units.
"This transformation does not mark an end to the regiment of Mounted Riflemen, but serves as yet another footnote in the storied history of the regiment," said III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Don M. Campbell Jr..
The new chapter officially began in November, when the regiment traded in its armor designation for that of a Stryker unit; but, to many of those in the regiment, reality of the change arrived with the Strykers.
The regiment's first 151 Strykers arrived at the railhead late Friday, Richardson said, adding that more than 200 others will arrive later this spring.
This first shipment's arrival came not a moment too soon.
To Richardson, the day was like Christmas and Easter all rolled into one.
"This is a day I've been eagerly anticipating," he said. "It's been in the back of everyone's minds."
Finally seeing the Strykers lined up at the rail yard was exciting for the Brave Rifles Soldiers, especially those who came to the regiment from other Stryker brigades.
Sergeants Shaun Monson and Nabeh Berry Jr. came to 3rd Cav. Regt. from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii in November.
Monson and Berry love the Stryker because of its comfortable ride, all-terrain capabilities, firepower and its protective armor. The armor was an important aspect during their combat tours in Iraq with Strykers.
"A Stryker saved my life," Berry said.
When his platoon encountered an explosively formed projectile in Iraq, several men shot at the device. When it did not detonate, they proceeded forward in their Strykers. The bomb blew up next to Berry's vehicle, but did not penetrate its heavy armor.
"There's no limit to what they can do," Berry said. "I'd compare it to a Cadillac."
Berry and Monson are not the only ones who like the Stryker.
When asked about the Strykers, the Soldiers gushed with praise. They list off the Stryker's pros -- the vehicles are faster than track vehicles, can move with stealth, they are highly adaptable and can provide a lot of firepower.
Staff Sgt. Curtis Morrow, Regimental Headquarters and Headquarters Troop's infantry platoon noncommissioned officer-in-charge, has spent a total of four years and three combat deployments to Iraq with Strykers.
"The way Strykers are built, it's like a well-put together four-wheel drive vehicle," Morrow said.
He and the other troopers are itching to get inside the Strykers and complete the 500-mile break-in period.
"It's like Christmas," Morrow added.
The conversion to Strykers marks the regiment's fourth since its inception on Aug. 1, 1846. Over the last more than 150 years, 3rd Cav. Regt. troopers have seen the transition from horse-mounted riflemen to half-track vehicles, track vehicles such as tanks and Bradleys, and now Strykers.
Although the official conversion from heavy tracked vehicles to the lighter wheeled Strykers occurred Nov. 16, 2011, the regiment just received the first of the new vehicles.
The regiment has been busy while anticipating the Strykers' arrival. Energy within the regiment has been focused, he said, on the conversion.
We've been working on individual and team skills," Richardson said.
Regimental troopers will stay busy and focused, as they are slated to train and qualify on their new steeds over the next two years and be deployment-ready by November 2013, the colonel added.
"We've got to harness that focus and keep Soldiers focused on the mission," Richardson said. "We are here to mark the next step."
He said 3rd Cav has made a "full-circle return to its roots as a regiment Mounted Riflemen."
Instead of horses, today's cavalry troopers will be mounting their newest steed, the Stryker Vehicle.
Strykers entered Army service in 2002 to fit the Army's need for a "strategically deployable and operationally deployable brigade capable of rapid movement anywhere on the globe in a combat ready configuration," according to the Army's website.
To the Soldiers who use them, Strykers can go anywhere, provide firepower equivalent to that of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, move quickly and stealthily, and preserve the lives of those on the vehicles.
Richardson said Strykers will bring a whole new set of capabilities to not only the regiment, but to III Corps and Fort Hood, organizations previously known for their heavy armor.
"We can flex the Stryker to fill gaps between light and heavy," he said. "Strykers provide armor that is rapidly deployable."
Strykers come with state-of-the art digital systems and configurations include infantry carriers, reconnaissance, mortar carriers, medical evacuation and command and control vehicles. Richardson said the regiment will receive all 10 configurations.
"We now have the horsepower to carry us through," Richardson said about the Strykers.
Through all the changes the regiment has seen, one constant has remained at the heart of 3rd Cav -- the trooper, Campbell said.
"Your victories and success throughout your distinguished history are not because of your equipment, but because of the fundamental spirit, discipline and audaciousness of the cavalry trooper," the general said. "It is the trooper, past and present that has made the regiment of mounted riflemen the unit of choice to defend our nation, our Families and our values."