Aviation Soldiers conduct Spur Ride
June 19, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Aviation Soldiers tested their intestinal fortitude and personal courage as they participated in a time-honored traditional rite of passage for cavalry leaders June 5-6.
Soldiers of 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, conducted a Spur Ride at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield, in which candidates competed as members of teams in complex tasks over a two-day period. Soldiers in leadership positions as well as those who demonstrate leadership qualities were eligible to participate in the Spur Ride.
"The competition is a cavalry leader validation," said Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Roche, 6-6 Cavalry senior enlisted adviser. "We are validating the leadership skills and requirements for our future leaders, young Soldiers and young officers. Soldiers were chosen to participate on the total Soldier concept."
The Order of the Spur is a cavalry tradition within U.S. Army in which Soldiers serving with cavalry units are inducted after successfully completing a Spur Ride or having served during combat as a member of or with a cavalry unit.
During the event, the candidates were referred to as "shave tails." Traditionally, the name was used to refer to green cavalry troopers first arriving to their new assignment with little to no experience.
During the grooming process, the new troopers were presented with a shaved-tailed horse. The shaved-tailed horse and trooper were given extra space in which to operate since they were marked as an amateur. Only when the trooper was able to prove his ability to perform with his horse were the sabers, Stetson and spurs returned to the trooper.
The 6-6 Cavalry is composed of Soldiers with many technical specialties who had to come together to complete each mission during the event. One hundred five Soldiers, from aviators to maintainers and administrators, all endured the struggle of 30 hours of physical and mental fatigue as they completed the leader validation.
"One of the most challenging events was vehicle recovery," said Capt. Amy D. Thomas, a Spur Ride candidate and commander of E Troop, 6-6 Cavalry. "Lane personnel had simulators going off all over the place, you had to do some land navigation, and the whole event kept you frazzled the whole time you were out there."
Adding a wrinkle to the event, leaders were changed out often throughout the event, according to Roche. Dealing with different leadership styles reinforced the axim that in order to be a good leader, one must be a good follower.
Operating with little to no sleep, six teams of spur candidates navigated through six stations, where they demonstrated their knowledge of weapons, land navigation and medical evacuation. They also demonstrated their knowledge of U.S. cavalry and unit history by taking a written test and participating in a knowledge board.
"I enjoyed the Spur Ride," said Pfc. Terrence Mayfield, a Spur Ride candidate and a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist assigned to E Troop, 6-6 Cavalry. "I was able to participate in the strenuous events and learn more about the history of the Spur Ride and the Cav. It made me feel extremely proud after completing the event. I like to go out and do things that are competitive. I want to take my career to the next step and see what I can accomplish."
At the completion of the event, candidates were honored with a hero's breakfast and, while saddled on a wooden horse, presented spurs by their sponsor.
"I think after the leader validation, the Soldiers see themselves differently," Roche said. "They see themselves in a different light; they see themselves as (people) who not only can take orders but who can also give them."
In addition to validating leaders, the Spur Ride is conducted to build unit cohesion, teamwork and esprit de corps throughout the squadron. Although Soldiers today do not need to prove their horseman skills, they do need to demonstrate they have what it takes to ride with the cavalry.