FORT STEWART, Ga. - A bittersweet ending to the life cycle of the active Army’s M93A1 FOX took place at Fort Stewart’s pond 28, Oct. 29, with 51st Chemical Company “Cobras,” 83rd Chemical Battalion.
The “Cobras” are the last active Army unit with the A1 variant of the FOX still in its inventory. The chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear reconnaissance vehicle is the only variant capable of swimming. As with all technology, the Army has deemed it time to retire this piece of equipment, sourced from Germany and originally used during the Gulf War, and replace it with a modified version of the Stryker.
The FOX program began here at Fort Stewart in 1988 and officially entered into Army service in 1998, so it’s only fitting that the final swim take place here as well. Although the Army loses the swim capability with the new CBRNRV, the new Stryker, and even the A1P1 and A1P2 versions of the FOX, afford a higher level of safety for the crew by adding additional armor and a Common Remotely Operated Weapon System – designed to be operated from inside the vehicle to limit exposure to enemy fire and CBRN threats, explained Randy Pearce, mobile backup team technician with 51st Chem. Company.
“Today’s event was really designed to highlight a capability of our mounted reconnaissance platoon when it comes to crossing a flooded zone and getting to an area of contamination,” explained Lt. Col. Mike Kepner, 83rd Chem. Bn. Commander.
“I swam my first FOX 17 years ago at Fort Hood, Texas,” Kepner continued. “Today’s event, for me, brought back a lot of memories. As you drive into the water the first time and the brown water starts coming up over the windshield, you really start to wonder, ‘Why am I doing this?’ And then you get out in the middle of it and you’re floating like you’re in a boat, it’s pretty exciting. And then once you come to the other side and the confidence that you wield in that piece of equipment, the confidence of these young soldiers, the drivers, the TCs [truck commanders] and the folks in the back – the confidence they got from this vehicle today will reap benefits as we go forward.”
Out of all of the soldiers in 51st Chem. Company, only one has ever swum a FOX before today. At just over 22 feet long, 8 feet tall and tipping the scales at over 19 tons, to think the FOX is capable of floating let alone swimming is an engineering feat.
“In the beginning, I was terrified because I can’t swim,” Spc. Lillian Williams, a driver with 51st Chem. Company, shared. “This is a huge, huge vehicle to get across from one side to the other. I was a little nervous but once we got going I was fine. It kind of feels like you’re in a bubble … it was really nerve racking.”
For Staff Sgt. Michael Hayes, 51st Chem. Company platoon sergeant, swimming the FOX vehicle is nothing new to him. His first assignment in the Army was with a FOX platoon where his platoon sergeant would have them swim their vehicles all the time, he explained.
“Today was a special day because this is the official last swim of these M93A1 FOX vehicles,” stated Hayes. “Whoever thought that we would be involved in the last swim?
I’ve been doing this FOX thing for a long time. We’re supposed to be turning them in soon, so it’s really nice to go out with these vehicles like this.”