News: Women uphold tradition, history
Story by Sgt. Eric Glassey
FORT CARSON, Col. - A woman on a horse galloped across Founders Field dressed in a blue wool uniform reminiscent of those worn by soldiers more than 130 years ago, during the 4th Infantry Division change of command ceremony, March 14, 2013.
Women like Sgt. Shelly Anderson, horseman, Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard, are celebrated in March, Women’s History Month, as they strive to uphold traditions and honor their country with their sacrifice.
Anderson set her goal to be a part of the unique mounted team before she ever came to Fort Carson.
“I first saw the [mounted color guards] at Fort Hood, Texas, and I thought, 'Hey, that’s a really neat job,'” she said. “I thought somehow, someway I’m going to be part of the Mounted Color Guard.”
The quest to reach her goal was not an easy one for Anderson.
“I PCS’ed here and the third day here I tore my ACL [anterior cruciate ligament], my disc and fractured a bone playing at PT,” Anderson said. “So I’m all casted up and I go to Turkey Creek and talked to Master Sgt. (Shawn) Farnsworth, (noncommissioned officer in charge, Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard,) and said, ‘Hey, what can I do now to practice and what can I learn to be on this team.’”
Farnsworth said he was initially disinclined to accept Anderson for consideration for the team.
“My first instinct was ‘no,’” Farnsworth said. “She didn’t know anything about horses, she had the profile, and she wouldn’t be able to meet the obligations; so I told her, ‘Sgt. Anderson, this is what you need to do. You need to recover, get your knee stronger so you can ride.'”
Anderson refused to take no for an answer and was determined to get on the team.
“I went down to the Air Force Academy, and every Saturday I would, still to this day, volunteer at the academy, and they were the ones who taught me how to ride,” Anderson said. “They taught me what a saddle is, what a horse is; because, I just thought that I just sit there and look pretty. That was my conception, and I was wrong.
“I got better,” Anderson added. “I’m not afraid. I will do anything you ask me to do on a horse. Throughout my surgery, I kept bugging Master Sgt. Farnsworth.”
Farnsworth kept an eye on Anderson as she developed her riding skills.
“She would not stop calling me,” Farnsworth said. “Every month, she would call me and let me know that she was working with the Air Force Academy. I talked to the guys up there, the wranglers at the Air Force Academy, and they were filling me in on her.”
Before she even joined the team, Anderson was assisting the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard with historical documentation with her hobby of photography.
“Last spring, we went to a mission at Fort Garland over memorial day weekend,” Farnsworth said. “She wasn’t on the team, but she asked if she could go on her own dime. So I was like, ‘Ok, it’s a free country; you can go.’ She wasn’t allowed to ride a horse since she wasn’t on the team, but she brought her camera along and took some good pictures.”
Being in the color guard is not as simple a task as one might think.
“You have to have the love of horses,” Farnsworth said. “This isn’t one of those jobs you just show up to collect your paycheck. On any given day a horse can get injured. You don’t know if you’ll have Saturday or Sunday off, or if you have to do a parade on Saturday or Sunday. If you don’t love horses this isn’t your job.”
Anderson finally achieved her dream in July 2012 and currently works several jobs with the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard where her femininity according to Farnsworth is an asset the team benefits from.
“Those [female] soldiers bring something to the team that male soldiers can’t,” Farnsworth said. “Like when we went to the Denver Stock Show, they wanted to set up a display. Most men will set up a few things and be done with it. They [the females] are more resourceful. Sometimes they are more organized. They make things look nice. You could say, a woman’s touch.”
While females may not have traditionally been in the Cavalry, Farnsworth argues for their worth on the team.
“Some historians will tell me there weren’t woman in the Cavalry in the 1800s, and I’ll tell them there are women in the Army today, and they’re just as important as male soldiers,” Farnsworth said. “They’re an inspiration when they are out there on the parade field or during a ceremony. There are females in the ranks and they see that there are women on the team, they say, ‘Maybe I can do that.’ It’s 2013, sometimes I get more work out of women than I do men. Everybody has their niche.
“Sgt. Anderson is one of the best noncommissioned officers at the sergeant level that I’ve had the privilege to work with, and I’m combat arms so I haven’t worked with a lot of women in the Army,” Farnsworth added.
While Anderson is not the only female in the color guard, her efforts demonstrate the quality of women in today's Army.
The Fort Carson Equal Opportunity Office will be hosting a Woman’s History Month celebration at the Elkhorn Lodge at 11:30 a.m., March 26.