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Exercise transporting Strykers in C-17s shows benefits of joint base

A Stryker from 472nd Signal Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division awaits transport in the cargo hold of an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., in this Jan. 28, 2012, file photo.

The Army and Air Force at Joint Base Lewis-McChord teamed up Monday for a mission they consider routine in war zones but rare at home: packing 20-ton Stryker vehicles on cargo jets and taking them on a flight.

“We’ve been doing this real world for a while,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Scott Templin of Tacoma, Wash., as he buckled a Stryker into the bay of a C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet. He helped fly Strykers into Iraq during the war’s “surge.”

At home, however, the Army and Air Force have not collaborated on a training mission with Strykers for eight years, even though the Army’s largest Stryker fleet is parked just a few miles from more than 50 Air Force C-17s.

Back in 2006, the two sides of the installation were still called McChord Air Field and Fort Lewis. Now they’re merged and are supposed to work with each other as much as they can.

“This is the perfect opportunity showing why we have Joint Base Lewis-McChord,” said Maj. Reed Burggrabe, a battalion operations officer in the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Burggrabe’s battalion is beginning several weeks of exercises at the Yakima Training Center. Most of the Strykers in his unit are going to Yakima, Wash., by road to meet the 25 that went by air.

The military typically sends Strykers to war by sea and land. It airlifts them in emergencies or when time is short, usually to replace broken, bombed-out or worn-out Strykers.

The ones that were flown out Monday were a little smaller and lighter than the extra-armored Strykers troops used in Afghanistan.

Master Sgt. Justin Kenley of the 62nd Airlift Wing’s operations squadron anticipates more joint exercises between the two sides of the base now that the war is drawing down. He said that’s good for airmen because they don’t have to fly to other states to pick up heavy cargo for their exercises.

He called it “one of the things that is really unique about Joint Base Lewis-McChord.”

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