By Ann Roosevelt

The Army chief of staff has approved the conversion of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division to become the eighth Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT), to begin in mid-Fiscal Year 2011.

The unit returns from Operation Iraqi Freedom in the 1st quarter of FY ’11 and begins conversion to SBCT 8 during its resetting period in the second quarter of FY ’11.

SBCT soldiers travel in wheeled armored vehicles produced by General Dynamics [GD] Land Systems. The vehicles come in 10 variants that include command and control, infantry carrier, medical evacuation, and NBC reconnaissance.

Conversion from an HBCT to a SBCT requires a 24-month time period to reach full operational capability.

Converting the unit during reset allows the synchronization of manning and equipping to complete all required new equipment fielding and new equipment training associated with a SBCT.

General Dynamics takes approximately 11 months to produce Stryker vehicles, so the Army must take that into account when preparing its procurement orders.

House appropriators approved a $250 million plus-up for Stryker vehicles, while the Senate has yet to make its decision. The president’s budget included funds for Stryker survivability kits only, not more vehicles. If the funds are approved by both chambers, the production line keeps its momentum.

The Army constantly re-evaluates its mix of light, heavy and Stryker brigades to ensure the optimum balance for the missions it is required to perform across the spectrum of conflict.

The Army has said in the past it requires a mix of forces.

The 1st Brigade 1st Armored Div., now a modular Heavy BCT, is stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas.