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Stryker Ambulance First With Most (2003)

Adapted from an article by Karen Fleming-Michael

Fort Detrick, Md., Standard

As the Army transforms its vehicle inventory for the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams, team medics will receive their new evacuation vehicles early next year.

"The important thing is it [the medical variant of the Stryker] has the mobility and ability to keep up with the forces. It lets us actually be there when we're needed," said Steve Reichard, Army Medical Materiel Development Activity product manager. "In Desert Storm, we were routinely one to two hours behind the forces."

The medical evacuation vehicle can evacuate four litter patients or six ambulatory patients while its crew of three medics provides basic medical care.

The first five medical variants of the Stryker rolled off the assembly line at Anniston, Ala., in late fall. They are being tested at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., before delivery to the Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis, Wash., in March, said Maj. Steven Wall of the Project Manager-Brigade Combat Team in Warren, Mich., which is part of the Program Executive Office-Ground Combat and Support Systems.

Wall said fully equipping an entire Brigade Combat Team would require 17 of the vehicles.

In addition to the medical variant, the Army's nine other Stryker variants include an infantry carrier, mobile gun system, anti-tank missile guided vehicle, reconnaissance vehicle, fire support vehicle, engineer vehicle, mortar carrier, commander's vehicle, and nuclear, biological and chemical reconnaissance vehicle. Each Stryker variant can sustain speeds of 60 miles per hour, has robust armor protection and a central tire-inflation system and shares the same chassis and repair parts. The medical variant boasts distinct differences.

When compared to its brothers, it has a higher roof.

"The headroom isn't so much to let the medics stand up in it, but to get space above the litter patients. If something happens and the medic needs to get to the patient to do CPR, apply a pressure bandage or start an IV, there's room to do that," Reichard said.

An automatic litter-lifting capability will improve on the current M-113 ambulance, which will continue to accompany heavy fighting forces. In the M-113, "the medic is hunched over, trying to carry and lift a litter from an awkward posture," Reichard said. "[With the Stryker], all the medics have to do is carry the litter to the back of the vehicle, load it on a tray, push it in and the vehicle will slide the litter over to the side then raise it up."

The Stryker's interior also accommodates more medical supplies and equipment than the M-113, as well as some crew gear.

"That's not to say everything can fit inside it, because it can't, but critically needed items will be more accessible," Reichard said.

An additional improvement is the communications equipment on the medical variant. The vehicle is equipped with the same communications package as the rest of the force, which will give medics the situational awareness to know where everyone else on the battlefield is so they can get to casualties faster, Reichard said.

The medical evacuation vehicle is light, a requirement for deploying it on an Air Force C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

"When you think about it, it doesn't have the gun, it doesn't have the ammunition. It's a pretty empty vehicle until you get people in it," Reichard said.

"There's a set list of what has to go inside the vehicle, and it all has to fit somehow," Reichard said. "We're doing the best we can to make sure everything fits in the most ergonomically sound way that we can."

Although abundant in features, the medical Stryker's developers are planning additional upgrades, Reichard said. For example, planners wanted the vehicle to have air conditioning but funding didn't permit it.

"We had to pre-plan product improvements because of funding availability," Reichard said. "So we had to figure out what we needed to trade off and what we needed to fight for. Our goal was to try to get the vehicle as good as we could get it within the budget we were given."

From the December 2002 Mercury, an Army Medical Department publication.