News: Airborne Cavalry dons spurs
Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- On a brisk evening just before sunset in late September, 58 paratroopers assigned to the 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry walked with a determined sense of purpose as they moved in formation to a closed set of steel doors leading to the heart of their motor pool. Inside waited a collection of seasoned veterans known as 'Spur Holders.'
This marked the completion of 48 hours of intense training known as a Spur Ride, a traditional event in a Cavalry unit where new leaders and motivated aspiring young troopers demonstrate traditional skills required by Cavalry troopers and endure rigorous testing under harsh conditions and little to no sleep. The Spur Holders assess the progress of the candidates as they move through the training and testing and determine if they are worthy of wearing their coveted silver spurs.
"Some of the more 'old-school' Cav things, like horseback saber and pistol skills, have been replaced," said Staff Sgt. Jameson Barnes, a current 'Spur Holder' and platoon sergeant for 1st platoon, Bravo Troop of the 1-40th Cav. "But we made sure these guys were tested on modern essentials needed by Cav soldiers in combat today."
The strenuous testing consisted of many different elements of combat related testing, to include priming a block of C-4 explosives, determining a slope percent for a helicopter landing zone, operations and corrective actions on a Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher, and a medical lane. In addition to the testing and lanes arranged for the Spur Ride, there was also an airborne operation where the spur candidates jumped into a drop zone from an aircraft and an air assault operation.
Other stressful training, such as a 'mud-run’ with obstacle course, area recon training, and a written test were all set up to challenge the candidates on all aspects of combat. Candidates covered over 8 kilometers on foot through harsh, mountainous terrain.
"These guys were tested, both physically and mentally," said Capt. Cody Pittman, the assistant S-3 Plans officer. "The vast majority of their ground movements were planned to be uphill with a minimum of 45 pounds of equipment in their ruck sacks."
While similar to the Expert Infantry Badge test, a spur ride has no Department of the Army set of standard testing, so individual Cavalry units are free to cater it to the specific mission requirements and performance standards of their unit.
"It also allows us to make the spur ride a lot harder than an EIB test." said Pittman with a sly grin.
At the end of the testing, candidates stood before a horseshoe shaped table lined with veteran Spur Holders. The collection of troopers were ready to bear witness to the issue of gleaming silver spurs to the new recipients.
The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Cassibry, served as the 'Senior Spur Holder' for the duration of the ceremony. The first order of business was to feed the hungry candidates a steak and potato dinner prior to the official issuance of their spurs. The spurs were issued. But not to end the trials too quickly, the Cav Troopers were required to assume the front leaning rest position and were only allowed to recover once the commander had tapped their newly won spurs with his Cavalry saber, a symbol of recognition and an honored tradition within the Cav dating back to the 1800s.
As the ceremony ended, the new spur holders told stories about the recent trials they endured to get where they are now and exchanged ideas on how to make the next spur ride even better.