Fort Wainwright brigade prepares for big changes

Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Fort Wainwright brigade in June will begin its transformation into a more mobile and lethal unit.

The 172nd Brigade at Fort Wainwright will be the Army's third Stryker Brigade and the change will affect both the Fairbanks base and Anchorage's Fort Richardson.

The Army is changing the brigades to battle foes that use tactics such as terrorism.

The change will add an estimated 229 new soldiers, some of them accompanied by family, to Alaska's major army posts.

The new Stryker brigades cost an estimated $1.5 billion apiece. Army Alaska Commander Maj. Gen. John Brown told the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that number could increase because of additional housing needed at Fort Wainwright.

Roughly 682 soldiers of the 3,000-plus member brigade will be stationed at Fort Richardson until new housing is completed, Brown said. The brigade will be equipped with about 300 of the vehicles the new brigades were named after -- the eight-wheeled Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle, an armored, armed vehicle that is lighter and faster than a tank.

Also to be added is a reconnaissance squadron that will use multiple methods of gathering intelligence, such as employing unmanned aircraft to survey battle perimeters and troop formations.

The other two Stryker brigades, both at Fort Lewis, Wash., are already undergoing the metamorphosis. Three more are planned.

''The six brigades will have the capabilities that combat commanders have been asking for since Desert Storm,'' Brown said.

The Stryker brigades are the first step in Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki's plan to make all units deployable worldwide within 96 hours in the next 15 to 30 years.

The 172nd was selected in part because of Alaska's strategic value, Brown said.

''We have tremendous training capabilities,'' Brown said.

Alaska has 10 percent of the Army's training land, enough to allow five Stryker brigades to train together, Brown said. Two Air Force bases are close by and Elmendorf Air Force Base has the C-17s needed to transport the Stryker vehicles.

''(Alaska has) the most dynamic strategic platform in the U.S.,'' Brown said, putting troops in hot spots in less time than if deployed from another stateside location.

Both family housing and single-living dormitories are scheduled for construction on base, including some planned for existing troops. Brown said the Army builds housing for 60 percent of the troops at Army posts and the rest live in the community.

New training facilities are also planned.

''Soldiers will receive the most advanced, digitized training in the world,'' Brown said.

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