FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- For the newest member of the Fort Sam Houston Caisson Section, 13 is his lucky number.
Cole, a 9-year old Percheron Draft horse and the 13th four-legged member of the section, was formally named after the 13th Sergeant Major of the Army -- retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston during a naming ceremony Dec. 12 outside of the historic Quadrangle.
The tradition of formally naming a horse after an SMA dates back to the founding of the section in 2001.
"Sgt. Maj. Van Autreve was instrumental in starting up this unit," said John Deeley, stable master and training officer for the Caisson Section. "The first horse was named after him as a way to honor him. It was then decided that once a new horse earned a place on the caisson team, he would be formally named after a Sergeant Major of the Army." Leon Van Autreve was the fourth Sergeant Major of the Army.
While 11 of the 12 other caisson horses have been named after SMAs, this is the first time a formal ceremony was conducted. The 12th horse, Mystique, is a mare.
"I am very honored and humbled to be a part of this," said Preston, who participated in the ceremony. "The mission of this section is a humble and proud tradition for our Soldiers and society."
As part of the ceremony, Preston removed his namesake's training bit and halter and replaced it with a brand-new one bearing his new name. Once the ceremony was complete, Preston rode his namesake "Preston" back to the stable and led him into his stall, which now bears his new name.
The significance of the naming ceremony is larger than giving a horse a name. It formally honors the legacy of SMA Preston by perpetuating his name within the section.
"As long as there is a caisson section here, there will always be a horse named Preston -- just like there will always be a 'Hall' or 'Van Autreve, said Command Sgt. Maj. Hu Rhodes, senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army North, Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis.
The Fort Sam Houston Caisson Section is one of two active-duty caisson units in the Army; the other is the U.S. Army Caisson Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, Third U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). It was established in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.