By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - The 3rd Cavalry Regiment marked the next step in its transition to an infantry-centric Stryker organization Monday with a christening ceremony at the post's rail line.
Following military tradition, Deanie Richardson, wife of 74th regimental commander Col. John B. Richardson IV, broke a bottle of champagne against one of the first 150 Strykers to arrive at Fort Hood.
"In the name of the U.S. cavalry, I christen thee," she said, shattering the bottle on the first attempt - an auspicious beginning to a new chapter in the regiment's 165-year history, said John Richardson.
"I've been kind of giddy all morning," he said, framed by rows of Strykers stretching out on the rail lines behind him. "These Strykers are overflowing with the potential they bring to the regiment in terms of combat power, flexibility and mobility - and not only to the regiment but also to III Corps and Fort Hood."
Corps and installation commander Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell said the mounted riflemen's "newest steed" will only enhance the regiment's and corps' flexibility as it trains for 21st century warfare.
Stryker vehicles, assembled by Michigan's General Dynamics Land Systems, debuted in 2002 in response to the Army's modularization initiative. The move to make the force lighter and more rapidly deployable was inspired in part by the combined arms capacity of the traditional armored cavalry regiment, said Richardson.
Unlike heavy tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, Strykers are particularly fit for today's conflicts. "You get the armored protection (of) a heavy force, but the more flexible, lighter and more mobile movement to counterattack by asymmetrical means," he said.
The 3rd Cavalry Regiment is the Army's ninth and final unit to become a Stryker organization, and the first at Fort Hood. The unit, formerly the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, was the Army's last armored cavalry regiment until November, when it dropped the "armored" portion of its name in preparation for its new configuration.
In addition to the 150 Strykers shipped from Fort Lewis, Wash., which were featured at the ceremony, the Brave Rifles will receive 210 more in the coming months.
Reigmental Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna, an infantryman who arrived at the unit with the conversion, said the best thing about the Stryker from a soldier's perspective is not having to walk or be dropped by helicopter to an objective.
"You get there quicker but with a full infantry squad," he said, adding that the vehicle accommodates 12 soldiers and offers the Army's most advanced technology platforms.
The Stryker's basic infantry carrier vehicle model comes in 10 variants, including medical evacuation, mobile gun system and reconnaissance vehicles. The regiment will have all of them. Richardson said the full transformation will take two years.
Retired Col. Dick Quinn, who served with the regiment from 1970 to 1980 and chose the unit as his parent organization in retirement, was one of many former troopers to attend the ceremony. He said the organization's ability to adapt always has been one of its strengths and called the Stryker the next chapter in the regiment's history.
"Looking at modern warfare today, it's an asymmetrical war and it's an appropriate vehicle for this war," he said of the Stryker.
"But they haven't dumped the tanks in the ocean," he said, adding that the 3rd Cavalry Regiment's most enduring asset is its troopers, who have withstood four major transformations during the unit's lifetime. "It's a matter of mental mobility. It's a matter of 'elan.'"
Richardson expressed a similar sentiment. Coming full-circle, he said, the regiment's other troopers "have returned to our roots as mounted riflemen."
Contact Colleen Flaherty at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.