Squadron integrates tradition with modern technology
Story and photos by Sgt. Lance Pounds
3d Cav. Regt. Public Affairs
FORT HOOD, Texas – 3rd Squadron “Thunder”, 3d Cavalry Regiment held a traditional four-day spur ride with a modern twist that began July 30 and concluded with a ceremony August 2. The squadron’s decision to incorporate horses, helicopters, boats and the unit’s new Strykers into the event was aimed at setting an example for the next chapter in the regiment’s history.
A spur ride is a rite of passage for cavalrymen and is open to any member of the unit, regardless of their occupational specialty. The silver spurs they earn represent the “Order of the Spurs” and are protected by current Spur Holders, who are charged with the responsibility of upholding tradition.
“It’s bragging rights! Because many of our Troopers have earned their gold spurs from any one of the regiment’s many deployments over the years.” said Staff Sgt. Jack Boeker, a mobile gun system platoon sergeant in Thunder, as he explained the prestige of earning silver spurs compared to gold combat spurs that are earned during deployments.
This spur ride truly differed from most before it, not only for the multitude of new elements presented but for its secrecy. Candidates were intentionally kept in the dark on the particulars of the event, forcing them to retain a vigilant posture throughout the entire challenge.
Forty candidates participated in the event, broken up into five teams of eight, and each faced challenging tasks intended to test them mentally and physically by means of scenario-based training and knowledge of regimental history.
Day One of the spur ride began with a timed race. Starting in staggered 30 minute increments, each team tactically marched through six checkpoints stretched along a three mile distance. Each team was only allowed to proceed to the next checkpoint after every member correctly answered a trivia question derived from the regiment’s history.
“Who is allowed in the Fiddler’s Green?” Sgt. 1st Class James Thurman, a medical platoon sergeant for Thunder, asked the first team to cross his checkpoint.
After the foot march each team picked up one of two Zodiac boats and proceeded to the bank of a rectangular lake for the last leg of the race. Some teams used a more strategic approach by hugging the embankment of the lake while other teams focused on rowing in unison, much like a four-count exercise.
Following the race, three of the five teams geared up for ride in a classic Vietnam era UH-1 Huey helicopter. This will be one of the last active duty missions for the Huey as it is scheduled to be decommissioned later this month.
Teams were transported using the Huey to their final event for the day, the Stryker land navigation course. There each team was given coordinates to their Stryker. After mounting the Stryker, teams received coordinates to the next point, following this pattern until they reached their final point.
Along the course teams encountered numerous simulated mortar attacks, mimicking the level of stress Troopers are likely to endure in deployed environments.
“Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and to believe in yourself,” said 1st Lt. Kip Blake, a human intelligence platoon leader for 66th Military Intelligence Company, as he explained a few ways Troopers could reduce that level of stress.
The other two teams met with staff from Horsin’ Around, a horse ranch at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area, for an 1870’s reconnaissance mission on horseback. Upon arrival, Troopers reported to Steve Draper, 1st Cavalry Division Museum Director, who was dressed in a replica 1875 officer uniform.
Draper provided each team with a half-drawn map on parchment paper and one piece of charcoal. With a 19th century perspective, he instructed the teams to recon the area, fill in missing terrain on their map, and identify two possible locations along the trail to build a fort for protection.
“It is important to incorporate history lessons into spur rides,” said Draper. “It adds to each Trooper’s knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a cavalryman and a part of the regiment.”
All teams converged on Day Two for a marksmanship competition. After each Trooper confirmed their accuracy and qualified on their assigned weapons, they returned to their teams and chose the six best shooters to represent their teams for the competition.
In part one of a reflexive fire style of marksmanship, Trooper were forced to adapt to unconventional shooting positions while aiming through a barrier with various shapes cut out of it, designed to simulate shooting in an urban area.
In part two, Troopers were given 27 rounds of ammunition to engage a target at 25 meters and then advancing the target in five meter increments.
“This was good simulated training for situations that require shooting while in a building,” said 2nd Lt. Anthony Mamunes, a fires support officer for Thunder.
Later that night, each team had to advance through a simulated urban village for the night raid event. Using a Stryker, each team moved in on their target, dismounted the Stryker and immediately began to assault the village.
Once inside the village, each team moved swiftly in groups of four to navigate their way through the village, clearing each room they entered while trying to avoid any casualties.
Teams that took longer than 30 minutes to complete this task were attacked by simulated mortar fire, to again simulate stress levels of a deployed environment.
On Day Three, Troopers completed three iterations through the House Creek Shoot House, a facility that allows Troopers to get hands-on practice clearing rooms using live ammunition.
The first iteration involved a safety briefing and a dry run through a room clearing scenario. In the second iteration Troopers used what they learned to clear each room using blank rounds and firing adapters. For the final iteration, each team assaulted their way through three rooms using live ammunition against the enemy, in this case ballistic dummies.
The fourth and final day of the spur ride began with a trail ride for the regimental command team and each of the squadron commanders.
Following the key leader trail ride, the remaining two teams that had not participated in the 1870’s era reconnaissance mission got their chance to experience the life of a 19th century cavalryman.
The completion of the reconnaissance mission marked the end of the spur ride tasks. Troopers were transported back to the squadron area to conduct personal hygiene in preparation for the spur ride dinner and ceremony.
Troopers then gathered at Horsin’ Around where they received their spurs during an “Order of the Spurs” ceremony. Following the ceremony, the new spur holders received some words of wisdom from the Thunder squadron commander and the regimental commander.
The spur ride is a rite of passage for the Troopers of a Cavalry Regiment. It is an opportunity for Troopers to learn from those before them and entrusts them with the responsibility of keeping the tradition alive.
Balancing past and present is a daily part of a cavalryman’s life, as
evident in this line from the Mounted Rifleman’s Creed: “With a long line of
Cavalry Troopers behind me, I will carry their traditions forward.”