Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), participated in a test of endurance to earn their silver spurs during a Squadron Spur Ride, Nov. 20-21 at Fort Drum, N.Y. The Spur Ride is a time-honored tradition for cavalry troopers to join the Order of the Spur, aside from a wartime induction.
"For the prerequisites of a spur ride, number one it's open to any MOS," said Lt. Col. Kevin Kilbride, 1-89 CAV's squadron commander. "You just have to be willing to ride with the cavalry. We need a scout of good standing, maintaining the highest level of physical fitness, not under any UCMJ action, and be able to execute a battery of individual tests. We completed all of the individual certifications during our intensive gunnery training a couple weeks ago."
How the Spur Ride is conducted varies depending on the unit, but generally it's held over multiple days during which a trooper must pass a series of physical and mental tests relevant to the cavalry. The purpose of the tests are to evaluate a candidate's leadership skills, technical and tactical proficiency, physical fitness and their ability to operate as part of a team under high levels of stress and fatigue. Testing elements included scenarios such as call for fire, medical evacuation of a casualty and establishing an observation post. A written test was also administered, covering topics such as the United States Cavalry and unit history.
The Spur Ride pays homage to the beginning of the American Cavalry and skilled horsemanship, stemming from the tradition of troopers. Once they arrived at their new unit, they have to earn their spurs through extensive training on their horse and saber.
"In the 1800s when a new trooper would come into a cavalry formation, they would have to go through an intensive training program before they would be issued spurs for their horse because of the degree of horsemanship required in the use of the spur," said Kilbride. "They could injure the horse, causing a break in formation from losing control of their horse. The tie back to that tradition is you had to earn your spurs through a rigorous training period and now it's evolved through a similar type training into a crucible type of event."
This year's Spur Ride had 248 candidates with 235 of them successfully completing the event. For Sgt. James Robertson, an intelligence analyst with 1-89 CAV, the challenge was a chance to succeed at a previously missed opportunity.
"I was originally a part of a CAV squadron in my last unit but didn't get the opportunity to conduct a Spur Ride," said Robertson. "So when given the opportunity to conduct one here, I jumped at the chance to prove myself and prove the level of professional development that I had received from my last unit."
A candidate's success was not based solely on their individual abilities but how they were able to communicate and execute each objective effectively through teamwork. For Kilbride, teamwork is the most important skill he wants his Soldiers to take away from this experience.
"They would only succeed or fail as part of a team," said Kilbride. "I think that is the key thing that success or failure depended on their teamwork but what it hinged on was their skill. They have to know in themselves that they can leave here more confident that they're skilled, audacious and tough which is what we want of our cavalry scouts."
With the Spur Ride now behind him, Robertson had some words of encouragement for future candidates.
"The advice I would give future spur candidates is to understand that you have the skills necessary to complete the Spur Ride," said Robertson. "Dig deep inside yourself, find that drive, actually want to complete this and recognize that this is proof that you deserve to be in this unit. We will come together and come out of this stronger than we were before."