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81st Brigade partners with JBLM Strykers

Guard unit transforming to Stryker brigade

Col. Bryan Grenon, commander, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, looks forward to the changes the Washington Army National Guard faces. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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The Washington Army National Guard relishes an eight-wheeled challenge while partnering with active-duty units.

"Transforming from a heavy armor brigade to a Stryker brigade is a great opportunity for us," began Col. Bryan Grenon, commander, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), located at Camp Murray. "The Strykers are relevant in the current operational environment; they give the United States the ability to match the threats it faces."

The Stryker is an eight-wheeled armored vehicle that saw extensive service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since January of this year, the 81st has received its Strykers from the 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.  In February of next year, the brigade - which also has units in Oregon and California - will start new equipment training.

"We will have eight months of training; we will be busy," continued Grenon. "We welcome the challenge."

He explained that the 81st's transformation from its traditional role as a heavy armor unit to a Stryker unit fills a dual role. On the state level, the Strykers give the Guard a mobile platform from which to provide aid.

"We can use our Strykers during natural disasters to get to our citizens faster," Grenon said. "The transformation also gives the citizens of the states we are in well-trained soldiers working and living in their communities."

He also pointed out that the Strykers are not located at a central location like the armor was; they will be located at various points across the states.

"We are now much more mobile than before," Grenon said.

In fighting the nation's war, the 81st SBCT is much more than just another "Guard unit": It's also part of a pilot program called Associated Units. The program has established a relationship between the Reserve and active-duty components.

The thinking behind the program is to leverage the capabilities and capacities of the active component, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard as one Army.

Associated Units is part of the Total Force concept that Gen. Mark Milley, Army Chief of Staff, has championed since August 2015.

Downsizing is driving the pilot program and the transformation. As the active Army shrinks in size, the demand for soldiers around the world continues to rise. In February, the Army had 190,000 soldiers deployed worldwide, according to the service's 2017 budget.

This reality has forced the Army to rely on National Guardsman and reservists "to meet the demands of a complex global environment," said Milley in a news release. "Much of America's Army's capacity is resident in the Reserve components, and we must rely more heavily on them to meet the demands of a complex global environment."

The Guard soldiers will continue to meet the same requirements as their active-duty counterparts.  

"A soldier in the National Guard has a very challenging responsibility," concluded Grenon. "We ask a lot of and from our soldiers to serve their country."

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