WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii (Army News Service, Dec. 1, 2008) - Forty-two spouses of Soldiers "earned their spurs" during an all-day, multi-task tradition at Wheeler Army Airfield and Schofield Barracks when they participated in the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry's Spouse Spur Ride here Nov. 15.

The wearing of spurs is a time-honored cavalry tradition of mounted warriors and serves as a symbol of leadership and excellence. The tradition of wearing spurs dates back to the days of knights who had to prove themselves in battle or in a tournament to "earn their spurs." The spurs, which were worn when the individual was knighted, eventually became a symbol of knighthood.

In the past, when a cavalry Soldier, called a trooper, first arrived at his unit, he would receive a horse with a shaved tail. The shaved tail indicated the rider had limited experience, so others would give the new rider more space to maneuver. Once the rider was deemed proficient, he was awarded his spurs. Today, if a trooper successfully completes a "spur ride" he is awarded silver spurs.

A spur ride typically includes tests of military knowledge and skill that demonstrate a trooper's toughness, leadership ability, physical fitness, and technical and tactical proficiency. This year's Cav Spouse Spur Ride was organized in that spirit.

"Our goal with the event was to introduce our family members to our unit tradition and our customs, and to give them a better feel for what their spouses do on a daily basis," said Maj. George Ferido, executive officer of the 2nd Sqdn., 6th Cav. "Today is also about family bonding. Bringing our families together is very important for the unit. It builds a sense of pride and belonging to a good organization and builds esprit de corps."

To that end, spouses began the day learning the history of the 6th Cav. followed by an introduction to Army drill and ceremony. Spouses then marched to the "wind tunnel" (hanger) and competed in a "drill down" elimination competition where they responded to basic facing movement commands much like a "Simon-Says" elimination event.

Next, spouses were schooled in the history and capabilities of the unit's attack helicopter, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, as well as other ground weapon systems. Afterwards, spouses organized into small teams, donned helmets, and were transported by military vehicles to Schofield Barracks' Military Operations in Urban Terrain site. There, spouses practiced room clearing tactics with M-4 carbines and demonstrated radio proficiency in calling for fire support from a Kiowa.

In the afternoon, spouses teamed up to complete an obstacle course, then were transported back to WAAF where they were greeted by family and friends, inducted as honorary Order of the Spur Troopers and enjoyed a unit cookout.

"I think the obstacle course was the best part because we really had to work as a group in uncomfortable conditions," said Shannon Poppa. "We were teamed with women that we had never met which really required us to bond more than if we would have been teamed with spouses in our own troop. And that was the most fun -- working together with women in the different units." Poppa's troop companion agreed and also came to better appreciate her spouse.

"The best part was realizing how strong we all are," said Goldie Harvey. "It's amazing how strong we can be as a group. We usually see each other in more supportive roles, so to see us actually needing to be tough, working and communicating together was really fun.

"I also feel closer to my husband," she said. "We don't ever really get to see what they go through on a day to day basis. Now, I see how important his Soldiers are to him and have more respect for what he does every day."

(Alberts serves with 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs)