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M-113 Driver Examines the Stryker

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

FORT LEWIS, Wash., Oct. 22, 2003 – The 2003 model year for the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle is the best yet.

All right, that was tongue-in-cheek, but as an old M-113 armored personnel carrier driver, I couldn't help but be impressed following a test drive of the Stryker.

The Stryker vehicle is an eight-wheeled infantry carrier. While other military organizations had a wheeled armored personnel carrier most notably the Marine Corps' light armored vehicle the U.S. Army did not.

The vehicle is designed to get light infantry from point A to point B on the battlefield. Upon arrival, the troopers dismount the vehicle and fight on foot.

The idea isn't new. During and after the American Civil War, many military leaders looked at cavalry differently. The idea was that a horse was there for transportation and that was it. Even cavalry leaders such as Gen. Philip Sheridan believed horses were for nothing but transport.

The M-113 was a part of that. Designed in the 1940s and 1950s, the M-113 was an armored personnel carrier. It was a full-track vehicle and hundreds of thousands of them were built. Variants of the vehicle are still in service as emergency vehicles.

But wheeled vehicles offer many advantages, and the Army is developing the Stryker to exploit them.

Fort Lewis is the home to the Stryker Brigade soon to be deployed to Iraq and I was able to test drive a Stryker.

The difference between a Stryker and an M-113 is like the difference between a Yugo and a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. The first thing you notice about the Stryker is that there is a steering wheel. The M-113 had two sticks coming up from the floor, with each one controlling a track.

Visibility out of the driver's hatch is good. It's a 2,000 percent improvement over the M-113, most notably because you are buttoned up. The Army tells me there's a video camera that helps you drive, but I wasn't sure what I was looking at on the dashboard.

Handling characteristics of the Stryker are pretty darn good. They wanted me to keep the vehicle at about 30 miles per hour as I drove it. But the ride is so smooth, I didn't really notice the speed creeping up, and soon found myself doing about 50 mph. You might have been able to get an M-113 up to 50 if you were going downhill with the wind behind you. But if you did, you would have your fillings rattle out.

The Stryker has a nitrogen-charged suspension system that ensures a smooth ride on all but the hardest terrain. The medic I was driving with said he is able to do every medical procedure he knows in the back of the Stryker. What's more, he can do them while the vehicle is moving, the ride is so smooth.

The Stryker is bigger and has a higher profile and better armor than the M-113.

The Stryker can't go as many places as a fully tracked vehicle like the M-113. But those who have driven both say they can go through pretty much the same terrain. Plus the Stryker can run with four tires shot out. Try to keep moving if the track comes off on an M-113.

Maintenance is easier on the Stryker, but there is a shortage of parts in the system right now because the vehicle is so new.

The driver's seat is comfortable and is fully adjustable. It was easy even for a fat guy like me to climb in and out. They put the gear shift sticking out of the console rather than out of the floor, but who cares it's an automatic.

Finally, it's a fun vehicle to drive. Just imagine going cross-country in an eight-wheeled sport utility vehicle. It'll do 35 to 45 mph off-road.

The Stryker is a great vehicle. My only complaints: there's no CD player in the dashboard and no place to hang my fuzzy dice.

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