4-9 Cav Troopers earn their spurs
October 25, 2006
During the last century, the Army has transformed itself into the modern fighting force it is today. Armored tanks replaced horses and some of the traditions were left by the wayside however, the cavalry tradition of wearing a Stetson and spurs is still alive and well today.
"I joined the scouts and the whole time I thought spurs and Stetson," explained Spc. Tyler Burdette, a member of the personal security detail for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
While the Stetson can be worn by anyone assigned to a cavalry unit, troopers like Burdette, who wish to wear the spurs, must earn them through one of two ways.
Gold spurs are awarded to troopers who have been to combat, while silver spurs are awarded to troopers after the completion of a grueling event known as a "spur ride."
Forty-nine Soldiers from 4-9 Cav. were given the opportunity to earn their silver spurs Sept. 28 and 29, as the squadron conducted its first spur ride since it activated in July of 2005.
The two-day event pushed the troopers to their limits both physically and mentally.
"It was very challenging," platoon leader 1st Lt. Dennis Williams said. "We walked about 20 kilometers total throughout the day."
Williams said between the two days of trials, the spur candidates were allowed just four hours of sleep.
Lack of sleep and the physical demands the Soldiers must endure are just two parts of this cavalry tradition.
Spur candidates must hold the rank of specialist or above, and are selected based upon their performance at the spur board, according to the squadron's top noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. James Daniels.
He serves as the board's president and said that questions revolve around the Fiddler's Green, a poem intertwined with the tradition of the cavalry, as well as squadron history.
To attend the board, troopers must meet stringent criteria like qualifying at the sharpshooter level with their personal weapon, and scoring at least 250 points on the Army Physical Fitness Test.
Those who passed the board returned that night with their rucksacks packed, and the ride began with an intense physical training session at 2 a.m.
Daniels said the candidates were broken down randomly into 10 teams with no regard for ranks or positions.
Throughout the first day, the spur candidates moved from station to station, where spur holders tested them on basic skills cavalry members must be able to perform, including encountering an improvised explosive device, casualty evacuation, call for fire and an obstacle course.
"The obstacle course was no joke," Burdette said. "The amount of miles we put on our feet and heels we climbed - I've never experienced anything that painful in my life."
The second day began with a ruck march to the leadership reaction course, where the candidates went through nine more stations.
"I'm a pretty high endurance person and this was tough," Spc. Jessica Schneider, a supply clerk with Troop D, Forward Support Company, said.
Schneider had the rare distinction of being one of the few females, Armywide, to take part in a spur ride.
"It's unbelievable," she said. "I can't believe that I'm one out of three females that have actually done it."
Schneider and the 42 other candidates who finished the spur ride were awarded their coveted spurs during a ceremony at the Patton's Inn, which concluded the event.
"It's an amazing feeling," Burdette said after having his spurs strapped onto his boots.
The squadron's newest spur-holders have now earned the right to wear their spurs and Stetson on Fridays.
"It's a big deal for a cavalry trooper," Daniels said after the ceremony. "It says I'm a true cavalryman; I've earned my spurs the hard way and nobody can take this away from me."