FORT HOOD, Texas - For many college students, the opportunity to spend time shadowing those who do the jobs they hope to hold upon graduation is a chance not to be missed.

Cadets from the United States Military Academy -- West Point are taking part in the Cadet Troop Leadership Training program, where they are paired with active-duty lieutenants to shadow. The cadets who were placed with officers from the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division were placed in a prime position to experience what it is like to be in the Army and to practice their leadership skills.

Historically, when Troopers arrived at a cavalry unit for the first time and had to learn how to ride a horse properly, they had to show that they could prove they can perform with their horse and saber before getting their spurs.
Now, cavalry units hold spur rides, a multi-day trial with numerous tasks that tests the mental and physical ability, for the Troopers to get their silver spurs.

So it was fitting for the cadets to get a taste of the full Cav experience with a multi-day spur ride alongside the Troopers of 6-9 Cav. Monday at Fort Hood, Texas.

"They are proving themselves a little earlier in their military career," said 1st Lt. Brian Tierce, a Waco, Texas, native and platoon leader with Troop A, 6-9 Cav. "We were given the cadets to mentor, and the spur ride was coming up, so naturally they became a part of it."

The time the cadets spent with their mentors and the challenges of the spur ride offered them an eye-opening experience of what's to come. But their encounters with leaders and Soldiers they met throughout their trial eased their minds a bit.

"Cadet life is so much different from real Army life," said Cadet Brenden Bateman, a Rockland County, New York, native and senior at the United States Military Academy at West Point. "I guess I'm going to hit a big learning curve, but based on all of the NCOs and everyone I've encountered here, I think everyone is going to be out there to help you out."

Bateman is one of the five cadets fighting to earn his silver spurs before being commissioned into the Army. Each cadet was placed on a team of Soldiers, all equally hungry for a chance to earn their spurs.

The spur ride encompassed many different tasks and missions, including a 12-mile foot march, an obstacle course, and a stress shoot.

The obstacle course required the spur candidates to jump over walls, climb up ropes, and use teamwork to overcome some tough portions of the course.

"I really enjoyed the obstacle course, it was cool having the team help each other get through the events," said Bateman. "The walls we had to get over caused everyone to work together to get everyone over."

After the obstacles, the Soldiers had to complete the marksmanship range at the Black Well Rifle Range, but with a twist.

The candidates had to get their heart rate up before they fired by performing various exercises and low crawling.

"The toughest was probably the stress fire lane involving gas masks, tire flipping and a lot of physical activities," said Bateman. "It was pretty tough."

Once all of the events were completed, the Soldiers and cadets had earned their spurs and joined the Order of the Spur, an Army tradition.

"What better way to integrate the cadets into the training?" said Tierce. "This is a way to build their leadership skills, and it's a way to give them a quick test of their physical and mental capacity as leaders."