PA National Guard activates Stryker Brigade Combat Team


The Pennsylvania National Guard held an activation ceremony Sunday, Oct. 24, at Fort Indiantown Gap's Muir Field for the new 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, one of six elite rapid-mobilization brigades in the Army, and the only one in the reserve component.


Keynote speaker, U.S. Congressman John Murtha, praised Guard leadership for their untiring efforts to bring the Stryker Brigade home to Pennsylvania’s own 28th Infantry Division.


"If you hadn't done your work and proven you are one of the finest outfits in the nation today, we wouldn't have got that unit," Murtha said. "I am proud to be a Pennsylvanian and to participate in a service, where I know you are going to make a difference."


Murtha announced the formation of the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team will require a total of 3,717 traditional Guard soldiers and 220 full-time soldiers.  Approximately 10 new readiness centers and eight field maintenance shops will be built in the commonwealth with new construction scheduled to begin in 2006.  Older facilities, including 11 armories and three field maintenance shops, will be renovated with improvements scheduled to start in 2008. Updated training ranges and other facilities will be built or renovated at Fort Indiantown Gap – overall a total of 85 construction projects will occur with the Stryker’s fielding.  In all, the Army will invest some $1.5 billion for the Stryker Brigade.


"The biggest challenge for us is changing the way we think, not just tactics, but the day-to-day training," said Lt. Col. Joel W. Wierenga, 56th Brigade commander. "We are the first brigade in the reserve component to make this transformation and we have to be innovators.  It will be a challenge, but this is a great group of soldiers and we are prepared to make it happen."


The 56th Brigade features the Army's new Interim Armored Vehicle the "Stryker," named in honor of two Medal of Honor recipients, Pfc. Stuart R. Stryker, who served in World War II, and Spc. Robert F. Stryker who served in Vietnam.  The Stryker is a rapidly deployable-wheeled vehicle that employs the latest computer technology and serves as the primary weapons platform for the Stryker Brigade Combat Team. The Stryker Brigades will assist in covering the Army's near term capabilities gap between heavy and light units in a range of environments from war to humanitarian assistance.  Some 300 of these new vehicles will be arriving in the commonwealth as part of the new 56th Stryker Brigade.


Deputy Chief of Staff, G8, U.S. Army, Lt. Gen. Benjamin S. Griffin, congratulated all those involved in bringing the 56th Stryker Brigade to Pennsylvania


"It is a privilege and an honor to join you here today," Griffin said. "This is a great day for the Army.  It reflects great work on the part of Congress, private industry, the Army and 28th Infantry Division and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  We are building upon the success of Stryker Brigades one through five."


"The American soldier is the heart and soul of our fighting force," Griffin added. "We train hard today for tomorrow’s fight.  We are depending on you, you represent the warrior ethos, and we will get equipment to you as fast as we can."


Maj. Gen. Jessica L. Wright, state adjutant general and Maj. Gen. Wesley E. Craig Jr., commanding general of the 28th Infantry Division also spoke during the ceremony commending the 56th Brigade and the service of Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers and Airmen currently engaged in the War on Terror.


The other five active-duty Stryker Brigade Combat Teams are located in Fort Lewis, Wash.; Fort Wainwright and Fort Richardson, Alaska; Fort Polk, La.; and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.