Overall, the article “U.S. Strykers take beating in Iraq” by Robert H. Reid and Anne Flaherty (World, June 6) presents a fairly balanced view of what some critics view as shortcomings of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team and the Stryker family of combat vehicles.
However, as I read through the article, several thoughts occurred to me. First, the Army did more than hope to create a faster, more agile armored unit than those equipped with tanks but with more firepower and protection than light-infantry units — it did exactly that. The Army’s Stryker Brigades are the fastest, most agile, most lethal and best-protected light infantry units in Iraq today.
Every Arrowhead Brigade soldier you interviewed loved his Stryker. As Spc. Christopher Hagen, a veteran of more urban combat than most of the article’s commentators, stated, “I love Strykers … you’re mobile, you’re fast. … They bring a lot of troops to the fight.” I’d be willing to bet any of my other combat-veteran Stryker soldiers would say the same.
In order to combat the insurgents’ tactics — deadly but mostly hit-and-run — we require an agile and lethal force, a force that has the ability to bring large numbers of infantrymen to the fight quickly. No other unit in our Army can put more boots on the ground faster than a Stryker Brigade. A company with 10 Infantry Carrier Strykers can put 120 dismounted infantry soldiers on the ground in less than an hour anywhere in Baghdad — using only 20 vehicle crewmen. It would take 40 armored Humvees and 80 vehicle crewmen to transport as many infantrymen. Additionally, Stryker soldiers are well protected en route to the target and rested and situationally aware when they arrive.
Loren Thompson is quoted as saying that when the Army conceived the Stryker it “was more concerned about mobility and agility than it was about protection.” In fact, the Army built superb protection into every Stryker. In two tours and 23 months of combat in some of the toughest places in Iraq (including Samarra, Mosul, Tal Afar, Najaf, Al Kut, Baghdad, Diwaniyah and Baqubah), we have had only a handful of penetrations of a Stryker from rocket-propelled grenades, though hundreds have been fired at and scores have struck our Strykers. The roadside bombs that sometimes damage or destroy our Strykers are large or sophisticated enough to defeat any vehicle — M1A2 tanks included.
The Stryker isn’t perfect, but it is clearly the best vehicle available for the kind of fight we are in right now. One of the few protection improvements we would suggest for the next generation of Strykers, or the Army’s future combat system, would be to add additional blast-resistant design features to the bottom and wheel wells — lessons that apply to all of our current combat vehicles.
We like to say that the most powerful thing about the Stryker concept is not the superb vehicle, but the well-trained and well-equipped nine-man rifle squad that comes out of the back when the ramp hits the street. The correct formation for urban fighting has been debated since World War II. U.S. Army doctrine states that the most effective force is a combined arms team that balances the lethality and mobility of an armor force with a high concentration of infantry to control the complex terrain — in other words, a Stryker Brigade
Finally, if you want to know about Stryker utility or effectiveness, why ask think-tank critics?
Ask any of my soldiers which type of unit and vehicle they want to fight with. Ask any commander in Iraq what type of formation he would like to have for this fight and I think the answer will overwhelmingly be Stryker.
Ask me what type of unit and vehicle I want to fight with in Iraq — Stryker.
As to the comment about added armor straining the engine — maybe so, but we have not seen any empirical data to support the claim. Our Strykers didn’t seem to strain too much when our brigade moved more than 250 miles from Mosul to Baghdad at 60 miles per hour.
COL. STEVE TOWNSEND
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