TATA, Hungary �- The U.S. Cavalry has a long and rich history stretching back to the founding of the nation with the "spurs" being part of that heritage; from May 30-June 1, 2017 in Tata, Hungary, Apache Troop, 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment helped continue that tradition with their Hungarian Allies by holding a Spur Ride to induct new members into the Order of the Spur.
Apache Troop is currently stationed in Hungary as they support Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S.-led effort to strengthen the alliance to demonstrate its commitment to NATO, and the grueling three day spur ride was an example of the partnership building and combined training they have been conducting with their Hungarian hosts and ally since arriving in February.
In the pre-dawn darkness 31 "shaved tails", a name given to new troopers who would shave the tails of their horses to signify to their fellow cavalrymen they were new and less experienced, began the difficult test to demonstrate their grasp of cavalry and reconnaissance skills.
"The spur ride is a cavalry tradition where shaved tails are recommended by their spur holders based on their past performance and demonstrated potential to pass a spur ride," said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Pettinicchio, senior spur holder, who earned his spurs in 2005. "They have to go through a three-day course where they are tested on their reconnaissance and security knowledge and their ability to work as a team, and also as an individual to fight through physical and mental tests."
The troop organized and executed the first spur ride in Hungary, a task typically reserved for a squadron due to the scale and complexity the event requires.
"To have the first spur ride that's been conducted in Hungary has been a huge accomplishment both by the American Soldiers and Hungarian Defense Force Soldiers to see them both work together," Pettinichio said. "To see 24 out of the initial 31 pass has been a huge accomplishment."
Five Hungarian Defense Force Soldiers participated in the spur ride, successfully completing the event and now proudly wear the spurs of their American brothers-in-arms.
"We've been able to incorporate not only ourselves but our Hungarian allies in the train up," said 1st Lt. Thomas Ortega, Platoon Leader, Apache Troop, 4th Sqdn., 10th Cav. Regt. and now one of the newest members of The Order of the Spur.
Apache Troop has spent a great deal of time and energy not only organizing the spur ride, but also preparing its soldiers to ensure every spur candidate has the best chance for successfully completing the test.
"We've done a lot of classes over the last few weeks that focus on everything from cavalry history to our unit history, as well as weapons knowledge," said Ortega. "It's going to be very physically and mentally challenging, but I'm excited to be a team leader and help carry these guys through the spur ride."
A total of 24 soldiers stood exhausted on the Hungarian parade field, including all five Hungarian Defense Force Soldiers and the one female U.S. soldier who participated.
They arrived nearly 72 hours earlier as a "shaved tail," and now stand proud as "spur holder" with a freshly polished set of silver spurs strapped to their boots.
"I feel a great deal of accomplishment, it was definitely tough but being able to pull each other through it and overcome any challenges that came our way is an immense source of pride," said Ortega. "Being inducted into the Order of the Spur is an awesome feeling, and I'm proud to say that I've earned my spurs."
U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51st country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnership and enhance global security.