FORT LEWIS, Wash. - A little more than a year after the anti-tank guided missile Stryker dubbed General Lee was retired from Operation Iraqi Freedom, it made its return to Fort Lewis where Soldiers from 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division had been eagerly awaiting its arrival.
General Lee once belonged to Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, C Company, 52nd Infantry Regiment (Anti-Tank), 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. But on April 15, 2007, while conducting operations just south of the Shiek Hamed village in Iraq, the Stryker was hit by a deeply buried improvised explosive device.
Although the General had survived previous blasts in Iraq it was no match for the DBIED, and after returning its crew home from one last mission, it was retired and sent to Balad, where it was later shipped to General Dynamics, in Alabama, to receive some much-needed work.
"I actually processed (the General Lee) when it was at Balad," recalled Joe Griffiths, material fielding manager for the Stryker program at Fort Lewis. "This thing was completely blown on its side. It needed new armor, a new engine and a good cleaning."
General Lee arrived in Aniston, Ala., on May 17, 2007, and on May 21, 2008, it was inventoried and handed off to Soldiers in 2nd Squad, A Company, 52nd Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Even though many Soldiers from A Co. 52nd Inf. were receiving Strykers, the General Lee was one that held a special place with all who knew of it.
"This whole process started about two months ago, and we've been really eager to get our hands on it," said Staff Sgt. Bobby Sampson, the anti-armor section platoon sergeant.
General Lee will be with a single group of Soldiers, where it will be incorporated into squad training and eventually be taken downrange with them.
"We are going to be learning with it, training on it and deploying with it. It is a great thing for us," said Spec. Jon M. Leffers, an anti-tank gunner with 2nd Squad.
General Lee is no stranger to training or to combat.
The Stryker has seen more firefights across Iraqi terrain than most Soldiers serving in today's Army, and managed to keep its Soldiers safe throughout its journey.
"It's a pretty cool thing to continue the history on with it," said Pvt. 2nd Class Jody S. Smith, the General Lee's new driver.
"Driving Strykers is a new thing to me, but I love to learn and am excited about being able to experience it with such an infamous Stryker," Smith said.
Not only is this vehicle unique because of all it has been through, but it is the only Stryker in the fleet authorized to keep a name - 'General Lee' - stenciled on the side of it, Griffiths said.
General Lee's original crew had stenciled the name while in theater but it was later painted over when it was rebuilt at General Dynamics. The vehicle's new crew was happy to put the name back.
"You figure it took about eight months to get (General Lee) fully functioning again, it's here now, and we are just really glad to have it on board," Sampson said.
Spc. Lindsey M. Bradford is assigned to the I Corps Public Affairs Office