Fort Belvoir, Virginia—From storming into Baghdad, Iraq in 2003 to being rediscovered at an army depot, the first artifact for the future National Museum of the United States Army was moved to its final resting spot Monday morning.
The M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle that was part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was lifted off of a truck by a crane and then smoothly maneuvered onto a raised rack.
Located near U.S. Army base Fort Belvoir outside the nation’s capital, the future museum is installing its biggest artifacts in its collection over the next few weeks. Once they are in place, the museum will be built around them.
Seeing the Bradley lifted off the truck and placed in its new home, was “a big deal,” said retired U.S. Army Gen. Gordon Sullivan, chairman of the board of the National Museum of the United States Army. The installation marked an important milestone for the museum as it moves one step closer to completion.
“I really thought of all the soldiers who have fought in vehicles like this in all of our wars. And that’s what this museum is all about,” he added. Sullivan is a former Chief of Staff of the Army from 1991 to 1995.
The Bradley fighting vehicle that was installed was involved in one of the pivotal moments of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“This particular Bradley came to us from the 7th Cavalry of the 3rd Infantry Division. The importance of this particular vehicle is that it was the lead vehicle in the assault out of Kuwait right up to the edge of Baghdad,” said Patrick Jennings, a historian with the programs and educations section at the National Museum of the United States Army.
“Once the 3rd (Infantry) Division reached Baghdad, this vehicle and its brigade split off to defend what was famously known as the ‘Thunder Run,’” Jennings said. “So this vehicle has a magnificent combat history. We also know that some of the soldiers that served on it back in 2003 are still survivors of the war and they are very excited to see it go up here.”
The Thunder Run was significant because it was the army’s push into Baghdad. “And (when) you enter an enemy’s capital, and you’ve reached a critical objective in the war,” Jennings said.
“This vehicle’s role in that particular battle was to move north of the airport and secure a flank,” he added. “That way the Iraqi army couldn’t come down from the north and try to cut the smaller elements of the ‘Thunder Run’ as it moved into the city.”
The job of the M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting vehicle “is to scout ahead of the army. It moves very rapidly ahead of large armored forces,” Jennings said. “(It) looks for the enemy, tries to fix the enemy in place so larger units such as tank units can come in and destroy them.”
This Bradley was eventually aged out of the army and then sent to Red River Army Depot in Texas, according to Jennings. The museum tracked down the vehicle and then Red River Army Depot cleaned it up for the museum.
Once the building of the museum is complete, the site will be a place for Americans to learn more about the history of the army and that of their country.
“We will show the American people the American journey from 1636 as seen through the eyes of the American soldier,” Sullivan said. “Men and women and their families who recorded their journey, their time in the army, in letters home and diaries and oral histories. And it just through their service, they have influenced America in many ways.”