EL PASO, Texas -- The Southwest's most storied cavalry unit welcomed the Army's top enlistedman when Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston spoke at the 1st Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division "Warhorse" military ball at the Wyndham El Paso Airport Hotel, July 29.

On a night where tradition mixed with the opportunity to look back on a year of accomplishments, almost 500 Soldiers and their guests took the opportunity to put the work of the day aside as they celebrated each other and their places in history.

Today's unit may only be a year old, but their legend extends back much further. It was Soldiers from the 13th Cav. that turned back Poncho Villa at Columbus, N.M., in 1916. The same troops, led by Gen. John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, pursued Villa into Mexico for the next year, which became a conflict known to history as the Mexican Expedition. Different chapters in the story of the unit include service in Europe during World War II, supporting the liberation of Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and more.

In a region familiar to 13th Cav. legend, today's Warhorses started a new chapter when they activated at Fort Bliss in July 2009. Lt. Col. Kevin Jacobi, commander of the Warhorse squadron, said the military ball was a festive reminder for his troops and their families of the path laid out for them almost 100 years ago.

"Tonight is a celebration," said Jacobi. "Ninety-three years ago this squadron was here, fighting on the Border. It's no accident that they stood up the 13th Cav. in El Paso, Texas. I told my Soldiers [after activation,] 'we're here, we've been here before. We are those men who fought here 93 years ago, and we're going to do our part to honor them.""

Preston's visit highlighted the unit's first ball since it had been stood up. The 13th Sergeant Major of the Army said he enjoyed visiting with the Warhorse squadron, and he added that he was impressed by the type of character he saw within it.

"This is a chance for me to see a great unit with a lot of espirit de corps and a lot of camaraderie," said Preston. "You don't see this type of togetherness in every unit and organization that you go into so you can be very proud of yourselves."

During his remarks the affable Preston mixed stories that fit the nature of a ball with information on where the Army is today.

"In Iraq there are 360 bases closing down, and more than half of them already have," said Preston. "Our agreement with the Iraqi government is to be down to 50 thousand Soldiers by the end of August and we will meet that goal."

He continued to speak of the world tempo in its current state and the Pentagon's view of the role the Army plays in it, alluding to the fact that as the world gets "smaller," more aggressive factions seem to arise.

"Since 1989 there have been 45 major deployments which have required a brigade-sized unit or more," said Preston. "This is the 'Era of Persistent Conflict' and the things which fuel it are things like globalization, the global market, and those state, non-state, and individual actors who are very much opposed to them."

Preston went further in depth on the state of the Army and where its future is forecasted, while also sharing insight on quality-of-life issues, solutions, and plans to ensure the highest level of readiness among the ranks as possible.

The Maryland native has been the Sergeant Major of the Army for almost seven years, and with all the travelling the 34-year Army veteran has done to meet and speak with Soldiers, he said it'll never get old for him.

"These Soldiers are what keeps me going," said Preston. "The reason we as senior leaders go out and do this is the next generation [of Soldiers] is coming up and it's our opportunity to give back."

Pfc. Ryan Veenstra, a Soldier from the Warhorse squadron's Bravo troop, has been in the Army 18 months, and with his first orders having been to the Warhorse squadron in early 2009, he's seen his unit grow from "a handful of scouts" to "two full troops of them." He said that opportunity as a young Soldier has been very influential on him.

"It's been a unique opportunity because even as a new Soldier I've had input on how we do things on a day-to-day basis," said Veestra. "Joining what was a small outfit at first, but which continues to grow, has allowed me to stress the fundamentals of being both a good Soldier and a scout as I move forward."

He added that be able to listen to Preston speak first hand was a appreciated opportunity, and the gesture solidified his belief that he and his fellow Warhorses are not only viewed as valued Soldiers at Fort Bliss, but at the Pentagon as well.

"Since he's the voice of the enlisted Soldier to the Chief of Staff, the fact that he's come down to see exactly how we're living and working means a lot to me," said Veenstra. "To know that my commanders don't just sit at a desk and read about us, they come out and observe what we're up to, that lets me know they care about me and my family."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16