Cavalry Soldiers earn their spurs in spur ride
November 23, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. (Nov. 23, 2011) -- Cavalry Soldiers from 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, tested their grit against their fellow troopers, Nov. 15-17, during a time-honored tradition known as a spur ride. Spur candidates, known as shave-tails, from 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment go through a rigorous set of obstacles that test their physical and mental fortitude over the course of three days.
"It is a time-honored cavalry tradition," said Lt. Col. Christopher Jones, 5th Sqn., 7th Cav. commander. "This is an event that takes place over several days where we take what is called shave-tails, which are spur candidates, and put them through a spur ride."
The term shave-tail dates back to the start of United States cavalry units in 1776.
"The 'shave-tail' refers to back when new troopers came into the cavalry and were mounted on a horse that had a shaved tail," explained Jones. "That gave the other troopers the sign that this particular trooper was inexperienced."
The spur ride consists of an Army Physical Fitness Test, a Spur Board and a veritable 24-hour "smoke session." Of the candidates who took part in the event, 107 succeeded and obtained their spurs.
"There are several prerequisites for the spur ride," Jones said. "It comes down to the character of the trooper, and he has met all the physical requirements, no Uniform Code of Military Justice actions and approaches the Spur Board with a recommendation from his chain of command. In addition, a personal note is included from the trooper requesting to join the spur ride. Upon completion of the spur ride, the trooper will receive the coveted silver spurs from the squadron."
"The tradition of earning one's spurs has been a cavalry tradition since the first Dragoons rode their trusty steeds into the pages of history," said Maj. Michael Zopfi, 5th Sqn., 7th Cav. executive officer. "Today's spurring ceremony is not only conducted to welcome our traditions before us. The spur candidates going through today's ceremony have met strict prerequisites and have completed a challenging spur ride performing such tasks as operations, call for fire, first aid, medical evacuation, communications proficiency and individual movement techniques."
Tested on basic warrior tasks as well as cavalry skills in a high-stress environment, the spur ride is more than physically taxing. It causes each and every spur candidate to question his own will at least once.
"There were a lot of things going through my mind," said Spc. Carolee Boy, D Troop, 5th Sqn., 7th Cav., "At one point and time during the whole ride, I can guarantee that everyone wants to quit. However, there's that small voice in your head saying, 'I just have to make it to the next point and I'll be good.'"
Traveling from station to station is no simple task, the stations were set up anywhere from 2-8km apart.
"The spur ride was painful," said Sgt. Paul Alley, A Troop, 5th Sqn., 7th Cav., "It was a real gut check. Getting it done and over with and on to the next station is a common motivator. I kept thinking about time. At 8:45 p.m. the night before I was lying in bed with my wife and I told her, 'I wonder what I'll be doing tomorrow at this time.' So when I looked at my watch during the spur ride and it read 8:45 p.m. I thought about that and about my kid, and what she and I were doing the day before the spur ride."
Split up into teams, the spur candidates had to stick together to finish as a unit. At each station stood some of the squadron's spur holders. Tasked with testing each shave-tail's mettle, they pushed each one to their limit.
"Seeing the current spur holders maintaining and teaching that tradition to the young shave-tails as they become spur holders themselves is my favorite part," Jones said. "Another favorite part is seeing that drive and motivation of the shave tails to be a spur holder, and seeing them pull themselves and their teammates through the competition so they can stand together and become spur holders."
It is a goal of the spur holders to make sure every candidate remembers his or her spur ride for all his or her natural born days.
"I remember going through a spur ride as a second lieutenant," Jones said. "And just being filled with joy when it was complete. I looked down, and sure enough by the end of [the ride] I was wearing silver spurs."
Having finished their spur ride, the candidates got what they worked so hard to obtain during a ceremony, Nov. 17. Sitting upon a saddle in front of the squadron's current spur holders, the shave-tails had their spurs slapped on and became spur holders themselves.
"They rode and rode hard, been found worthy and have thus earned their spurs," Zopfi said. "As they mount the saddle and receive their spurs, they will be formally recognized as spur holders and complete a time-honored tradition."
For future spur candidates of the squadron, Alley had one thing to say, and he said it with a broad grin: "Don't come to my station."