By Staff Sgt. Mark A. Moore II, 2nd Brigade Combat Team Journalist June 12, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Some 75 candidates from across 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), set out earlier this month to earn their silver spurs during the unit's demanding 24-hour Spur Ride event on post.
After reassuring the candidates that their efforts would be rewarded, Lt. Col. Jason Griggs, 1-89 Cavalry commander, explained that the exceptionally physically difficult course would be a test of teamwork, endurance and mental agility.
Unlike the Stetson, spurs are earned and not purchased, he added.
"Of all the things I have done, this ranks very high on my list of things that I have earned," Griggs said. "There are things that I have completed and recognition that I have been given, but very few things I have earned.
"You will earn this today."
U.S. Army cavalrymen history can be traced back to the Revolutionary War, when Congress authorized the establishment of the 1st Regiment of light Dragoons on Dec. 12, 1776. The history of their spurs reaches back further, to knights who were awarded them only after proving their worth in battle. It was not a knight's armor, horse or sword that set him apart, but his spurs.
To this day, spurs remain a symbol of tactical, technical and physical excellence that cavalrymen strive to earn, be they gold, which are earned while deployed, or silver, which are earned after a Spur Ride.
Candidates from 1-89 Cavalry were nominated and sponsored by current spur holders.
Soldiers began the event with an equipment layout. Each unpacked item equaled a minor infraction that would require the Soldier or team to carry additional weight or move additional equipment between stations established miles apart. Soldiers committing a major infraction at any time could be terminated.
Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Oliver, D Company, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, reflected on his participation in the event as a sponsor.
"As you watch them prepare, they're anxious, they're nervous and they don't know what to expect," Oliver said. "Seeing them willing to compete and put forth the extra effort is rewarding, because not everyone is willing to do this."
Divided into five teams, the candidates ran / ruck marched to an obstacle course, marking the first of eight stations they would navigate as a team over the next 24 hours.
Additional testing included weapons assembly, medical proficiency, communications proficiency, patrol base operations, enemy reconnaissance operations, vehicle maintenance stations and a cavalry history board.
Each task varied in difficulty. Teamwork and historical cavalry knowledge were needed to accomplish the mission. With each fleeting hour, fatigue, sleep deprivation and loss of light increased the difficulty while decreasing everyone's motivation.
"The toughest portion was the weapons lanes," said Spc. Kadeem R. Green, 1-89 Cavalry. "It was around 2 a.m. when we arrived. We were tired. The pieces to eight different weapons systems where all in one box, and we had only 11 minutes to put them back together.
"Then we set up a support-by-fire position, which was like 600 meters through the (Fort Drum wilderness)," he added.
For Green, the event almost brought him to the breaking point, but in his pocket were silver spurs given to him to carry for motivation.
Motivational items were mandatory. Some carried baseball caps or red 1-8-9 numbered playing cards. Everyone carried something.
"I had the spurs in my pocket the whole time," Green said. "They really helped me push through."
Pushing past exhaustion, the candidates crossed the finish line, were treated to a barbecue, and they were then awarded their silver spurs as they sat atop 50 gallon drums painted red and white, the colors of the "Cav."
Sgt. Gorden D. Myers, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1-89 Cavalry, then offered advice for upcoming Spur Ride candidates.
"When you go out and do your Spur Ride, there will be that mental barrier," Myers explained. "Just overcome that and you'll be fine."