Michele Bostic didn’t know much about the Stryker armored vehicle before Tuesday. But there she was, along with 21 other business and civic leaders from Lakewood, wearing body armor and a Kevlar helmet while riding in the back of the eight-wheeled vehicle as it tore through the mud of Fort Lewis.
Later that afternoon, as she and the others sat down for lunch at the headquarters building of 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Bostic was raving about the experience.
“It was phenomenal,” the Graham resident said. “I had no idea what it would be like.”
Bostic and her husband, Meco, took part in the half-day event that links the brigade with its partner city in the community connections program. The participants received a briefing on the history of 4th Brigade, rode to the range on a Stryker, watched squad-level exercises where the soldiers reacted to a mock roadside bomb strike and then had a chance to check out the different Stryker variants. Soldiers were on hand to answer their questions.
“It puts you in touch with the soldiers,” said Michele, who owns a debris removal company.
“And it helps you realize what they do every day,” said Meco, the general sales manager at Lakewood Ford.
The group, representing 12 companies, then returned to the brigade headquarters, where they ate lunch prepared by the cooks of the 202nd Brigade Support Battalion. Lakewood Mayor Doug Richardson stressed the importance of his city’s relationship with 4th Brigade.
It’s a relationship both sides emphasize: The photos of the unit’s command adorn the walls at city hall; the photos of the city council are on display in the headquarters’ conference room.
Richardson and brigade commander Col. John Norris discussed the idea of a program in which businesses or civic groups would be linked with specific companies in the brigade. They’d keep in contact as the unit prepares for its fall deployment to Iraq and after it leaves for the Middle East.
Richardson said events like Tuesday’s help build grassroots connections for both sides.
“It’s an opportunity to actually talk to a soldier, see what they do, see how they live,” he said. “And I want everyone at Fort Lewis to think of Lakewood as their hometown, even if they don’t live there.”