By DAVID RISING
Associated Press Writer

BERLIN (AP) — The first U.S. Army Stryker armored fighting vehicles rolled onto German soil Monday, a key part of the military’s move to shed its heavy Cold War divisions in favor of a lighter more mobile force.

A ship from Washington state carrying the first 120 of the brigade’s approximately 300 vehicles arrived in the northern port of Bremerhaven on Saturday and began unloading its cargo Monday morning for shipment by rail to the unit’s new headquarters in the southern town of Vilseck.

“What Stryker gives us is a more agile, flexible force that we need for this new strategic environment that we’re in,” said U.S. Army Europe spokeswoman Lt. Col. Elizabeth Hibner in a telephone interview from Bremerhaven.

“It’s the kind of expeditionary capability that we need to respond to the 21st century threat.”¬†Unlike heavy tank divisions that take a long time to deploy, Stryker brigades are designed to be airlifted quickly to hot spots, fitting aboard the smaller Hercules C-130 aircraft. The vehicles provide far more protection than a Humvee, but have less firepower and armor than tanks or Bradleys.

The eight-wheeled vehicles can be outfitted with a range of weapons and armor, and have already been combat tested in Iraq.

“The Stryker’s performance in Iraq, during my year there from 2004 to 2005, was absolutely outstanding,” said Maj. Jon Pendell, public affairs for the Stryker unit being mustered in Vilseck, a Bavarian town near the army’s sprawling training range at Graefenwoehr. “I think it’s one of the best pieces of equipment the Army has built – it protects the soldiers, and it’s very mobile.”

Already, about half of the 3,900 soldiers that will make up the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment have arrived in Vilseck, with the rest of them and the equipment expected to come in through August and September, Pendell said.

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