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Washington Guard's Biggest Brigade To Convert To Nimble Strykers

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
File photo. The Washington National Guard currently has just a half-dozen Stryker vehicles, specially outfitted to assess chemical, nuclear and biological threats.

Amidst further downsizing confirmed by the U.S. Army Thursday, the Washington National Guard got good news. The Guard’s 81st Armored Brigade announced it will shed its heavy tanks and armor to convert into a more nimble Stryker configuration.

Strykers are versatile, eight-wheeled troop carriers that can drive on and off-road.

Major General Bret Daugherty is the Washington National Guard's top commander. He said the Stryker vehicles will be more useful in case of natural disaster in the Northwest.

"We love our tanks and our Bradley Fighting Vehicles and our armored artillery, but those vehicles are not going to help us much in the event of a big earthquake,” Daugherty said. “Whereas, these wheeled vehicles would.”

"More than just having the mobility, these things have all got state-of-the-art digital radio technology on board,” he added. “So when all the cell towers are not working and the power lines come down, these things will be a tremendous asset for our state domestically."

Under the Army's realignment plans, the Washington Guard will inherit its Strykers from an active duty brigade in Hawaii that is slimming down. The soon-to-be surplus heavy armor will be turned back to the Army for possible use elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, will shrink by a net of 1,250 active duty soldiers over the next two years, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. That is much less than a worst case scenario floated last year of 11,000 troop cuts.

The degree of Army shrinkage came as a relief to state and local officials. “Today’s news is as good as we could have hoped for,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a prepared statement.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.