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Pennsylvania Adds New Bradleys
FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, PA Pennsylvania National Guard and state government officials unveiled last month the latest addition to the state’s Army National Guard fleet, the M2A2 ODS-SA Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
The M2A2 ODS-SA Bradley Fighting Vehicle marks a significant upgrade to the state’s armored fleet. The 55th Armor Brigade will field the majority of the more than 120 vehicles, with the 166th Training Regiment fielding four.
The vehicle features embedded training and diagnostics, programmable displays, a thermal view for the driver, inertial navigation and upgraded armor. The M2A2 ODS-SA—which stands for Operation Desert Storm – Situational Awareness—is recognized as being more lethal, safer and easier to maintain than former variants.
John Tile, director of Bradley programs for manufacturer BAE Systems, explains why his organization was proud to complete the upgrade in York, a short drive away from Pennsylvania National Guard Headquarters in Harrisburg.
“In York, our motto is ‘We protect those who protect us,’ ” Tile says. “None of us, from myself, to the welder, to the engineer, to the janitor, ever forget that the next people who are going to touch these Bradleys are the men and women of our Armed Forces and, in this case, the Pennsylvania National Guard.”
“Our sons and daughters, and in some cases our grandsons and granddaughters, are in harm’s way protecting the freedoms that allow us to be here,” Tile continues. “We in BAE Systems have a long tradition of supporting our military and their families, and we are proud to continue that tradition with fielding the trusted Bradley Fighting Vehicle to the 55th Brigade of the Pennsylvania National Guard.”
Colonel Michael Konzman, commander of the 55th Armor Brigade Combat Team, says his brigade has been fielding this type of vehicle for nearly half a century starting in 1965, when the 1/109th Infantry received its first M113 armored personnel carriers, becoming the first mechanized unit in the state.
“In the early nineties, 2nd Battalion and 3rd Battalion of the 109th Infantry turned in their boots and became tankers, and the 55 became the first Heavy Brigade Combat Team within the commonwealth,” says Konzman. “Then in 2002, right after 9/11, the 109th Infantry turned in those 113s and they got brand-new Bradley Fighting Vehicles.”
In the decade since fielding those Bradleys, the brigade has been busy both overseas and here at home.
“Since 9/11, not only have we served the commonwealth by performing state Active Duty missions here, but the Soldiers of this brigade have also gone to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to help people wherever they hurt,” Konzman says.
In January 2013, 1,200 Soldiers of the 55th performed the critical mission of securing the presidential inauguration ceremonies in Washington, while over 1,500 more of them were deployed to Kuwait.
“Since 2001, Soldiers of this brigade have deployed nine separate times. We went to Bosnia, Europe, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Egypt,” Konzman says. “I don’t say that our Soldiers deserve these new vehicles; I say they’ve earned them. They earned them with their blood, they’ve earned them with their sweat, and they have earned them with the dedication and the selflessness with which they have served the commonwealth and this nation.”
The 55th Armor Brigade will spend the next year fielding and training on the vehicles before performing a live-fire gunnery exercise scheduled for the summer of 2015 at Fort Pickett, VA.
“This brigade is going to be back to being one of the premier fighting forces in the Guard if not in the military in a short period of time,” Konzman told the crowd during the unveiling ceremony.
“Sleep well at night; 55 is here to protect you.”