FORT HOOD, Texas -- "Yes, Spur Holder," are words that are commonly heard during a Cavalry Spur Ride. They are said with respect, motivation and a slight tinge of nervousness by spur candidates hoping to earn the right to wear the silver spur. But Spur Holders are more than just the purveyors of judgement and "motivation," they are also responsible for planning and executing the Spur Ride itself.
The Troopers of 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team "Greywolf," 1st cavalry Division, held a two-day spur ride at Fort Hood from Jan. 30 to Jan. 31. Although the event lasted a total of three days to include the dinner, planning began as early as October of last year.
According to Sgt. First Class Derek Horne, a committee of Spur Holders was formed and started planning the Spur Ride using their past experiences.
"That's the important part of having a spur ride committee," he said. "We take an amalgamation of everyone's experiences and combine it to make something that is familiar, but unique at the same time."
The Army does not have strict guidelines for how a Spur Ride is conducted, therefore no two Spur Rides are exactly the same. For Saber squadron, the ride consisted of an Army Physical Fitness Test followed by a written exam and Spur Board to test a candidate's cavalry knowledge. They then went to the small arms ranges for weapon qualification.
The heat was turned up on the second day when the candidates had to complete an obstacle course followed by 14 testing lanes over a nearly 10-mile course. The candidates rucked from lane to lane where they had to complete specific tasks ranging from medical, to call for fire, to react to contact and vehicle identification. The second day wrapped up close to midnight.
Part of the planning included discussion on how to balance, esprit de corps and motivation while ensuring safety and respect.
"We wanted to make sure they got training value out of the event, but still had a memorable experience that they'll be able to draw on in their career," said Horne, who was participating in his fifth Spur Ride, the third as a Spur Holder.
One of the ways the Spur Holders ensured a safe and challenging Spur Ride was to have the lane walkers and lane graders walk the course and rehearse prior to executing the event. This gave them an opportunity to identify potential areas that were not safe or would require some mitigation.
Most of the candidates said it was a great experience and one they would not soon forget.
"This is great stuff, good training," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Rice a wheeled vehicle mechanic. "This is something that not a lot of my peers have, so it means a little more to earn my spurs. I think they (scouts) look at you a little differently when you have earned your spurs."
There were also the traditional aspects that are common to almost all Spur Rides such as Soldiers reciting Fiddler's Green-multiple times. The key to success was staying motivated. Soldiers could be cut for showing a lack of motivation during the event.
"I think the motivation has to be internal, they have to want to be here," said Horne. "I think they understand that and they want to earn the right to wear their spurs on Fridays. We told the lane walkers, 'You're not there to make them quit. You're there to keep them propped up and motivated. Let the lanes try to break them down.' Because the goal of this isn't to see who is the toughest, the goal is to indoctrinate them into the rich tradition of the Cavalry."
Of the 253 spur candidates that started on Jan. 29, 191 received their spurs at a spur dinner on Feb. 1.