Strykers file into port for shipment to Iraq

OLYMPIA — A convoy of Stryker vehicles and other Army equipment made its way through downtown Monday on its way from Fort Lewis through the Port of Olympia to Iraq.

By the end of today, as many as 300 Stryker vehicles will have arrived at the port, said Fort Lewis spokesman Joe Hitt. A total of 20 convoys of trucks and Stryker vehicles are expected to make the trip from Fort Lewis.

The equipment will be loaded on a ship bound for Iraq.

A spokeswoman for the Army’s 833rd Transportation Battalion in Seattle declined to say when a ship would arrive at the port to pick up the vehicles and containers of equipment that were waiting at the port Monday. Port spokeswoman Patti Grant confirmed that the containers are related to the military shipment.

The shipments are in advance of the deployment to Iraq next month of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based at Fort Lewis.

The 3rd Brigade is the Army’s initial Stryker Brigade Combat Team and was the first of the Stryker brigades to be sent to Iraq in late 2003.

Hitt offered little in the way of detail regarding the convoys. “Basically, all we have to say is what’s on the (news) release,” he said.

A three-paragraph release said Fort Lewis Military Police were escorting the vehicles to Olympia, and it warned motorists to be aware of the Strykers.

“The Strykers will have additional slat armor installed making them oversized,” the release said. “Motorists are asked to drive carefully when approaching or passing the convoys.”

The two-ton, eight-wheeled Strykers were meant to bridge the gap between heavy armor and light infantry. They are better protected than a Humvee, yet lighter and faster than a tank when transporting troops.

The Army plans to continue the convoys to the port between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. today.

The Army and port officials routinely refuse to comment about military ship arrival and departure times for security reasons.

Fewer than a dozen protesters carrying signs walked along Marine Drive on Monday afternoon as police escorted the military equipment onto port property.

Their signs read “Bring ’Em Home,” “Peace 4 Olympia” and “Stop Bush.”

One was arrested for blocking the vehicles at the intersection of Franklin and Market streets. The protester, Brendan M. Dunn, 21, of Olympia was cited for pedestrian interference, booked into the Olympia City Jail and released, Olympia police reported.

Protesters said they opposed the port policy of accepting military shipments. They termed the Iraq war “immoral and illegal” and called on soldiers to refuse their war-related assignments.

Anti-war groups repeatedly have asked the port’s three-member commission to stop accepting military shipments since they resumed in Olympia in 2004 after a 17-year absence. The commission has held fast to its policy of accepting military shipments.