News: Cavalry soldiers earn their spurs
Story by Staff Sgt. David Chapman
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — A heavy Washington rain poured down on 126 motivated soldiers at Lancer field, as the 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment began its Spur Ride. These soldiers took a strenuous journey through 18 hours of mental and physical tests at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Feb. 13.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord—A heavy Washington rain poured down on 126 motivated soldiers at Lancer field, as the 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment began its Spur Ride. These soldiers took a strenuous journey through 18 hours of mental and physical tests at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Feb. 13.
“Today troopers went through a series of events that tested their technical and tactical proficiencies as well as their physical prowess,” said Capt. Brett Bambacorta, Headquarter and Headquarters Troop commander. “We had three major events. We started out the morning with three hours of grueling physical training. Then the afternoon consisted of spur lanes. We completed the day with the spur quiz followed by the final six mile foot march to Solo Point.”
Cavalry regiments have been conducting spur rides for more than a hundred years. Early in the history the rides were used as an opportunity to train new soldiers on their horse riding and soldier skills before they were considered true cavalrymen.
Now spur rides are conducted to give soldiers of a cavalry unit the opportunity to earn their spurs and be able to wear them at formal unit events. But earning the spurs is not just limited to cavalry scouts; it is open to all members of the unit regardless of military occupational specialty.
“What is unique about this event is the same thing that makes the cavalry unique. This unit is a combined arms team, every member of the squadron wears the cross sabers,” said Sgt. Maj. John Hegadush, operations sergeant major. “I think it is pretty cool that this event, which results in these spurs, is something that is all ours. The beauty of it is it can be for anyone who comes into this organization they don’t need to be a certain MOS.”
Despite the exhaustive challenges of the day most of those working for their spurs enjoyed the challenge. Some of the events of the day actually provided inspiration to continue.
“I thought the event was amazing all the way down to the last drop,” said Pfc. Joel Black, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment tanker. “The best part was probably the ruck march from the squadron to Solo Point. You could see the light at the end of the tunnel and it was tough. I had spur holders next to me saying ‘spurs are forever and pain is temporary.’ I just kept that in in the back of my mind.”
But some of the events turned out to be the most difficult challenges they had ever done in their military careers.
“All the ruck marching was the most difficult part of the event. The lanes were difficult and challenging mentally, but just enduring the physical non-stop pain of the marching from lane to lane was tough,” said Black, a Fort Meyers, Fla., native. “Several times I felt like I wasn’t going to make it, but my team kept me up and I tried my best to keep them up also.”
For the cavalry unit, it was very important that the spur ride was conducted before it deploys to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“This is about esprit-de-corps and pride in the identity of the organization. This event also builds an understanding between the team, showing people’s strengths and weaknesses. It is a shortcut to engaging in each others lives before we go downrange,” said Lt. Col. Patrick R. Michaelis, 8-1 squadron commander. “Now as we are going into a deployment I have a bank of soldiers who understand what it is to be a cavalryman. Now I have a defensive measure against the trials that come with a deployment.”
As one of the few female soldiers to earn her spurs, Sgt. Maria Davila, intelligence analyst 572nd Military Intelligence Company, was happy to survive the event and make it to the end for the ceremony.
“It feels good to be out here and working as hard as the males. I wanted to see if I could do this and I made it,” Davila said. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but it is going to make me tougher for the deployment.”
Despite the exhaustion, 117 of the 126 soldiers who began the journey stood at Solo Point and received their spurs.
Once the muscle aches and pains have faded, Sgt. Maj. Hegadush hopes that those who completed the challenge take memories of what they accomplished.
“I hope the biggest take away for these soldiers today will be whenever they put on their spurs they have a funny story they can drum up and remember what they went through today to earn them.”