YOUNGSTOWN, N.Y. - Twenty New York Army National Guard Soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, had their mental and physical toughness put to the test in a grueling squadron spur ride at the Youngstown Local Training Area Sep. 7.

"The spur ride is an annual tradition in the squadron with the purpose to develop teamwork across the unit, develop leadership at the small unit level, and to test critical cavalry skills at the individual Soldier level," explained Lt. Col. Bradley Frank, the squadron commander. "It all culminates in earning your spurs, which troopers can wear at cavalry functions and at unit armories."

The day began early with a rigorous physical training session at the squadron's Niagara Falls headquarters. Then the Soldiers were loaded into trucks, driven to the training area, and divided into teams.

Each Soldier rotated through leadership roles as the day progressed. It didn't matter if you were a sergeant major, officer, or junior Soldier -- every spur ride candidate was held to the same standard, and required to complete four different training lanes to test the basic soldiering skills of a cavalryman.

"Each of the lanes is about 2 hours long and can range anywhere from one kilometer to several kilometers in length," Frank said. "The tasks consist of zone reconnaissance, area reconnaissance, route reconnaissance, setting up an observation post, and breaking contact."

For each of the lanes, the Soldiers conducted basic cavalry reconnaissance missions:

• Zone reconnaissance, in which the Soldiers obtained detailed information about routes, terrain, obstacles and enemy forces within a space determined by specific boundaries;
• Area reconnaissance, in which the team focuses on obtaining information about a piece of terrain or a town that is smaller than a zone;
• Route reconnaissance, in which the team gathers information about a specific road or cross country route;
• And the skills involved in setting up an observation post and breaking contact with the enemy.

The Soldiers were given little time to rest. If they were lucky enough to have a few minutes, the time was usually occupied by reciting The Cavalryman's Poem, "Fiddler's Green." It was first published in the U.S. Army's Cavalry Journal in 1923 and has become widely associated with the Cavalry branch.

After each team completed the training lanes, there was one more task: a 12-mile ruck march back to squadron headquarters.

The Soldiers could then shower and rest before a banquet, where they were formally inducted into the Order of the Spur.

"The spurs meant a lot to me ever since I became part of the 2-101 Cav," said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Chernogorec, a truck commander assigned to Bravo Troop, 2-101 Cavalry. "Having them bestows a greater sense of pride and honor in myself and what it means to be in the cavalry."

Although the Order of the Spur is a cavalry tradition and an unofficial award, Soldiers with any military occupational specialty can participate in the spur ride.

Frank hopes to open the event to scout platoons across the infantry battalions within the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, spread across New York and Massachusetts.

"We have a very unique mission within the brigade. We are the brigade's eyes and ears and we're out front of the line companies," Frank said. "It's these traditions that keep us together as a team when we're out doing those difficult missions."

"I would encourage it for those serious, strong-willed, and those determined to push themselves," Chernogorec added.