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Stryker Brigade completes certification exercise

FORT POLK, La. (Army News Service, June 2, 2003) -- The Army's first Stryker Brigade Combat Team completed its certification exercise "Arrowhead Lightning II" last week at the Joint Readiness Training Center.

The 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., conducted operations simultaneously in four separate training areas on or near Fort Polk. It was the first time a brigade training at JRTC has controlled such a large area, officials said. As Stryker Brigade units fought the enemy in one region, they were engaged in civil-military operations elsewhere.

Exercise Arrowhead Lightning II began May 17 and since then 3,600 Stryker Brigade soldiers engaged in a constant series of attacks or defenses against an unconventional enemy at Fort Polk. The battlefield had additional threats such as terrorists, car bombs, and sniper attacks - part of the contemporary operating environment.

"The Stryker unit performed superbly," said Gen. Larry R. Ellis, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command. "The next step in the process is to finish analyzing the results of the exercise and provide our report through the secretary of Defense to Congress."

Arrowhead Lightning demonstrated the Stryker Brigade Combat Team's ability to deploy rapidly over great distances by air and sea, execute early-entry operations, and conduct combat missions across a range of military operations, potential threats, and terrain, officials said.

The first phase of the exercise actually began March 23 when the Stryker Brigade deployed in its entirety to the field for the first time. Then it conducted seven days of battalion-level training and live-fire exercises.

"Arrowhead Lightning I" was then conducted April 1-11 at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. It involved both offensive and defensive operations against a mobile heavy enemy in desert terrain.

No other brigade has completed back-to-back maneuvers at two combat training centers, Army officials said. The Stryker Brigade conducted a cross-country deployment exercise as it moved its equipment from Fort Irwin to Fort Polk.

The SBCT vehicles were moved by rail, C-17s, C-130s, Fast Sealift Ship and Logistics Support Vessel.

About 830 SBCT vehicles convoyed to San Diego and loaded onto a U.S. Navy Fast Sealift Ship. The FSS sailed through the Panama Canal to the Port of Lake Chjarles, La., where the vehicles were offloaded May 9-10 in 36 hours.

More than 150 vehicles moved by rail from NTC to Beaumont, Texas, and Fort Sill, Okla. The LSV sailed some of the vehicles from Beaumont to Lake Charles. At the same time, five C-17s flew 55 Strykers and 75 other vehicles from Fort Sill to Alexandria, La., north of Fort Polk. The C-17s completed 45 round-trip flights in 42 hours.

In early-entry operations, C-17s flew a Stryker company from Chennault to Geronimo field unimproved landing strip at JRTC. Five C-17s flew 30 Strykers in 15 sorties over a six-hour period. On average, each plane was unloaded in 4.5 minutes.

More than 1,000 SBCT vehicles convoyed 61 miles from Lake Charles to Fort Polk. The brigade safely completed 52 20-vehicle convoys in less than two days.

In intratheater airlift operations, C-130s flew 21 Strykers, equipment and full crews, plus other vehicles on 24 sorties in 9 hours from Geronimo field landing strip to Esler National Guard Airfield.

The certification exercise and the operational evaluation were designed to determine the SBCT's capability to operate on different terrain against a wide range of threats in the contemporary operating environment, officials said. The JRTC Opposing Force, which is highly trained in light force, urban and complex terrain operations, challenged the SBCT's capabilities.

Now the unit will continue to hone its warfighting skills, officials said, by applying lessons learned at NTC and JRTC in follow-on training at its home station, Fort Lewis, as the SBCT enhances some systems and equipment.

"The soldiers and leaders have done a magnificent job in forming and building this brigade into a highly effective combat formation," said Ellis. Once certified, the Stryker Brigade Combat Team will provide the combatant commanders a decisive force capable of rapidly deploying anywhere with great lethality, survivability and maneuverability, he said.

(Editor's note: Information provided by FORSCOM and I Corps releases.)

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