'Thunderhorse' Soldiers earn their spurs
May 19, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq - "Thunderhorse" Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, deployed to U.S. Division-North in support of Operation New Dawn, participated in a long-standing Cavalry tradition at Contingency Operating Site Warrior, in Kirkuk Province, May 14.
During the Spur Ride, 74 participants, or "shave tails," sought to prove themselves worthy of their spurs-an honor reserved for those within Cavalry units who have mastered their craft as warriors-during a day-long test of mettle, said Command Sgt. Maj. William May, senior enlisted leader of 2nd Bn., 12th Cav. Regt., and senior spur holder for the event.
The name "shave tail" derives from the Cavalry tradition of shaving the tails of horses to mark new troopers as amateurs who had not yet earned their spurs. Troopers could only wear spurs once they proved themselves capable of proper performance with a horse and saber.
"We carry forth the tradition of the Spur Ride to maintain the history of the Cavalry," said May, who hails from Monument Beach, Mass. "We don't have colts and carbines and horses anymore, we have our warrior tasks that we have to be proficient in. We have our own mounts, which are our tanks or our humvees. Those Soldiers who have proved their proficiency in these tasks prove their worthiness as Cavalry troopers to be spur holders."
To be inducted into the Order of the Spur, Soldiers must complete a series of physical and mental tests to demonstrate tactical and technical skills and exhibit knowledge of Cavalry traditions.
The Order of the Spur is open to all Soldiers serving with a Cavalry unit, regardless of military occupational specialty.
Shave tails of 2nd. Bn., 12th Cav. Regt., part of 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Cavalry Division, began the competition at 5 a.m. with a six-mile foot march to test their endurance.
After the march, which the shave tails were required to complete within 90 minutes, they conducted a layout of their gear, took a written test on the history of the 1st Cavalry Division, and recited "Fiddler's Green," the official poem of the Cavalry.
Shave tails who could not complete any assigned task immediately became disqualified, and by 8 a.m., only 18 Thunderhorse troopers remained.
Those 18 Soldiers separated into three teams of six to continue the challenge.
May said teams integrated Soldiers from each company within the battalion, ensuring the shave tails would have to learn to work with their new team as they continued the Spur Ride.
During the next 10 hours, remaining Soldiers traveled by foot to sites throughout COS Warrior to test skills at six stations.
Soldiers working as a part of a team instead of just trying to win something for themselves is one of the benefits of the Spur Ride, said Sgt. Anthony Ceppaglia, senior mechanic, Company F, who hails from Fresno, Calif.
"I'm having a lot of fun out here," said Ceppaglia after completing three of the six stations. "I've got my teammates here and they are keeping me motivated. I am keeping them motivated, and we are going to finish this thing together."
By the 6 p.m. finish, Soldiers covered an estimated 12 miles and completed tasks ranging from first aid to troop movements to reflexive rifle firing drills.
After 13 hours of constant action, the 17 remaining shave tails mounted wooden horses and senior battalion spur holders placed spurs on Soldiers' boots, inducting them into the Order of the Spur.
"This is awesome," said Spc. Shahram Darr, an infantryman serving with Company D, who calls Los Angeles home. "Once you have been through the whole Spur Ride-10 to 12 hours of hard-core training and challenges-it feels great to know you finished and accomplished the challenge."
Darr said he almost decided not to compete due to an injury he sustained earlier in the week, but decided to push through the pain to support his teammates.
May said he hopes the success of the new spur holders will motivate their comrades to strive for excellence.
"To do this in a combat environment means just a little bit more than doing it back at Fort Hood," said May. "These Soldiers finished this challenge in the environment in which they are executing their craft, and our craft as combat Soldiers is to close with the enemy and destroy them as quickly ... as possible.
"To do that, you have to possess these skills as an individual and as a team member," said May. "I'm proud of these Soldiers. They showed their true Cavalry Red and White today."