KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The Redistribution Property Assistance Team yard retrograded its first Stryker combat vehicles for return to the U.S. here March 2 under the responsibility of the Army Field Support Battalion-Kandahar, 401st Army Field Support Brigade.

"This is our unit's first time turning in our Strykers while in theater," said 1st Lt. Shawn Quillen 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord-based Stryker brigade. "These vehicles improve our situational awareness tremendously," he said. "With the Stryker, we were able to have guys outside of the hatch to see what was going on around us; plus the unit can take more hits."

The armored-wheeled vehicles are swift, easy to maintain and designed to protect Soldiers.

Features include a hull that is constructed from high-hardness steel, bolt-on ceramic armor that offers protection against armor piercing ammunition, reactive armor tiles for protection against rocket-propelled grenades and other projectiles, and armored skirts for additional protection against improvised explosive devices.

The arrival and retrograde of the first Strykers by the battalion was made possible through a unique partnership between the Redistribution Property Assistance Team, or RPAT, and Project Manager Stryker through General Dynamics Land Systems, or GDLS.

"We've been working together since December to coordinate the transition," said Jon Thom, operations supervisor of GDLS, the company that previously had the lead on the Stryker retrograde.

Maj. Daniel A. Lancaster, support operations officer for AFSBn-KAF, believes that the Stryker retrograde was a natural addition to the current workload.

"Although the process is slightly different from all other equipment we retrograde, we'll have no issues receiving the equipment from the Warfighter, relieving them of accountability, and coordinating transportation back to CONUS," he said. "From the Warfighter's perspective this creates a one-stop shop for turn in and relief of accountability for all theater provided equipment."

Capt. Lee Berry, who oversees the battalion's RPAT yard, agrees.

"It takes us four to six hours to clean the average armored vehicle," Berry said. "The process is much more involved with the Stryker. It takes 24 to 36 hours because of all the intricate electrical systems that are inside the vehicle."

"All the extra technology added to the vehicle in support of the mission has to be removed and sent to Fort Lewis (Joint Base Lewis-McChord). Once the vehicle is returned to its original state, it undergoes an intensive cleaning process to meet customs standards for return to the U.S.," Berry said. "Then, both the vehicle and communications technology will be married up at Fort Lewis where it will be reinstalled."

In addition to being weighed, measured and tagged with bar codes for tracking, the Stryker will go through at least five inspections by the RPAT team to ensure there are no live ammunition and explosives, bio-hazardous materials, and potentially dangerous species of insects and organisms.

Then the vehicles are taken to nearby wash racks, which are operated 24 hours daily by AFSBn-KAF contractors, for a thorough cleaning and customs inspection for the long journey home.