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New Stryker vehicles arrive at Fort Carson

February 7, 2014 Updated: February 7, 2014 at 5:17 pm
Caption +
The first Stryker vehicle rolls off the ramp at Fort Carson the morning of Friday, February, 7, 2014. Eighty Stryker vehicles were unloaded from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. The Strykers will be replacing Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Photo by Mason Trinca, The Gazette

Looking for a good vehicle to take on Colorado's snow?

Fort Carson just got a fleet of them - eight-wheeled drive monsters that can pound through drifts and grind their 18-tons over ice.

It's a good thing, when the 88 new Stryker combat vehicles arrived at the post Friday morning, they had to be driven from railcars onto packed powder.

"This is a great day for 1st Brigade 4th Infantry Division," said Col. David Hodne as he surveyed a railyard packed with the new vehicles.

Hodne's brigade is trading M-1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles for the lighter wheeled Strykers as part of a major overhaul of Fort Carson's units. As the post prepares to eliminate one of its four combat brigades, the remaining brigade's are growing and getting new missions.

The new Strykers - 336 are expected to arrive at the post in the coming weeks - will be used by 4,500 1st Brigade soldiers, which is adding an infantry battalion of about 700 soldiers as part of the transformation.

The changes will leave Fort Carson with a heavy armored brigade, a light infantry brigade and the Strykers, making the 4th Infantry Division one of the most flexible units in the Army.

While Strykers have been in the Army's inventory since the late 1990s, the ones that came to Colorado Springs Friday are of a new design. The latest generation of the Stryker includes improved armor with a V-shaped hull that deflects landmine and bomb blasts.

The Strykers are a family of vehicles, which in different configurations can operate as ambulances, carry infantry squads or take out enemy tanks with a 105 mm cannon.

The Stryker can deploy quickly, with an Air Force C-17 holding up to four of the vehicles.

In combat, the Stryker has proven to be nimble, able to tackle tough terrain and deal with the tight confines of cities in Iraq and Afghanistan because of four-wheel steering. A 450-horsepower diesel engine can push the Stryker past 60 mph on the highway.

But it will be a long time before 1st Brigade soldiers are ready to take their new rigs to war.

Hodne said he plans an 18-month training program to get his armor troops acclimated to the Stryker.

The first step is training mechanics and drivers. On Friday, the vehicles were unloaded from rail cars by civilian contractors because 1st Brigade's troops aren't ready to take the wheel.

The brigade also will learn how to employ the Stryker in combat, moving away from the firepower-focused tactics of an armored brigade.

For troops, worries over the changes are overcome with an eagerness to get their new vehicles on the road.

"I love that I'm part of a big change in the Army," said Capt. Cody Martin as he supervised the unloading of the big rigs.

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