GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — A 20-mile troop marching trail will allow infantrymen from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment to march from range to range when they arrive at Vilseck this summer.

The trail is one of many training facilities being developed at Grafenwöhr Training Area as the Joint Multinational Training Command (JMTC) prepares to welcome the Strykers.

The marching trail would cross 20 miles of the training area, enabling dismounted Stryker troops to walk from range to range. And it’s not just for Strykers, said Micaela Witzke, of the Integrated Training Area Management office, which is responsible for range modifications at Grafenwöhr.

“If you have airborne coming in they can hit the drop zone and walk to the range. It keeps them off the tank trail,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

In addition to the new trail, some ranges will be set up to specialize in Stryker training.

“For example, Range 112 is a sniper range. Stryker units have a lot more designated marksmen than your average unit. They can already train there, but we want to make it fit [the Strykers] like a glove,” she said.

Maj. Don Mills, the training center’s chief officer of plans for range operations, said he started planning for the Strykers’ arrival eight months ago.

“Strykers have never trained here, but we have had German Luchs wheeled armored personnel carriers here as recently as two months ago,” he said.

Mills said the ranges at Grafenwöhr are similar to ranges already used by Strykers in Washington state, and that the vehicles’ weapons systems — .50-caliber machine guns, 105 mm main guns and anti-tank missiles — are nothing new for the training area.

“Fifteen years ago, we had M113s APCs (armored personnel carriers) with .50-caliber machine guns and M60 tanks with 105 mm main guns training here,” he said.

The hulks of M60s can still be seen rusting in Grafenwöhr’s impact area, where they are used as targets.

The Stryker’s main gun probably will not be fielded in Germany until 2008, at the earliest. At that stage, range support crews will construct whatever targets Stryker commanders ask for, Mills said.

The Stryker’s primary purpose is to transport infantry safely around the battlefield. The vehicles have greater range and can carry more troops than Bradley fighting vehicles, he said. And, they can train on the same ranges the Bradleys and tanks use.

In fact, some ranges at Grafenwöhr are well-suited for the Strykers, including:

Range 118, which includes personnel and vehicle targets set up in a forest. Dismounted infantry can go through the wooded areas engaging targets while the Strykers follow on a nearby course road.

The Yeager Bahn, a dismounted infantry assault course. The Strykers will move along course roads providing support fire to the infantry. And before troops get to the live-fire portion of the Yeager Bahn, there are dozens of obstacles they have to pass, including a tunnel, a rope bridge and a climbing wall.

Three shoot houses and a pair of new assault buildings that will open later this year on ranges 307 and 308.

Lt. Col. Frank Hall, chief of the JMTC’s operations and plans division, who deals with policy and strategy for training within U.S. Army Europe, said none of the range improvements at Grafenwöhr are being done just for the Strykers. The improvements were developed after consultation with units that had trained at the facility, he said.

Training center officials have been planning for the Strykers since August, and a Stryker Reception Fielding Team had been set up at Vilseck to welcome the unit, Hall said.

The Stryker brigade’s first training at Grafenwöhr is likely to be at the level of individual soldiers because the unit has recently returned from Iraq and will have many new troops. Hall said he expected the Strykers to gradually ramp up their training until they are ready for a mission rehearsal-style exercise at nearby Hohenfels later this year.

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now