The sound of nine horses hooves clip-clopping on the roads of Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston signaled the final post ride of U.S. Army North Caisson Platoon Sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Timothy French. He was joined by his wife Marisa, U.S. Army North Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and Company leadership, and his platoon soldiers, July 23, 2021.
Moseying past the quadrangle, sauntering down the historic streets and marking the halfway point of the ride at the main flag pole at MacArthur Parade Field, French was able to reflect on his time at the platoon with his fellow riders.
“The chance to get one last ride with my guys, I’m happy about it, it means a lot,” said French.
Concluding the ride, U.S. Army North leadership and personnel, along with friends and family, joined in sharing their fond memories and highlighting the accomplishments of French during a reception held at the Fort Sam Houston Museum.
“Everybody in this room, whether they experienced it or not, you need to acknowledge and understand what this Soldier did for us,” said Lt. Col. Richard P. Teta, U.S. Army North Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion commander, as he gestured to French. “The benefits we will reap will come from the hard work of you and your team, and has been passed on to a great team.”
French embodied the Army’s ‘People First’ philosophy, which extended to the caisson horses, by working tirelessly to ensure the safety of both horse and rider within the platoon. In addition to implementing safety training for the caisson riders he researched and purchasing a custom nine-horse trailer which extended the radius and time the horses can safely be away from the stables performing missions.
“From the time he arrived Sergeant French never stopped,” said 1st Sgt. Christopher G. Taffoya, Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army North. “We have trailers, we have a whole new herd, the list is so long of [his] accomplishments that lay down the foundation for the next generation.”
The current herd of 13 horses, has changed for the better over time through the diligent work of French which vastly improved the caisson mission. He selected eight horses with ideal temperaments to add to the herd and retired 10 aging and medically injured horses. They found new homes through careful selection by the Caisson Horse Adoption Board, a program French stood up.
Taffoya also lauded French’s operation and budgetary skillset.
“I appreciate all the hard work you do and you weren’t done until contracts were renegotiated and the Army saved money,” said Taffoya.
By modifying the hay contract, French reduced the annual cost by $14,000 annually, cutting the cost in half, and by purchasing new hay feeders, waste was reduced by 36 percent. Additionally, the modification and negotiation of their uniform dry cleaning contract reduced costs by $46,000 annually while ensuring updated cleaning standards were applied.
Mr. Robert Naething, U.S. Army North deputy to the commanding general, referred to Sgt. 1st Class French as ‘a make it happen guy,’ a testament to his hard work day in and day out which extended to evenings, weekends, and after hours beyond the typical duty day.
When a record making winter storm hit Fort Sam Houston in February of this year, French and one other Soldier were the lone caretakers of the herd due to the winter road conditions. However, French was able to facilitate non-stop care to the horses by gathering volunteers from on post.
Lt. Col. Teta further stated, “Sergeant French has led an absolute no fail mission when it comes to military funeral honors and there is nothing more important than that.”
French attributed that no fail mission to his village of people.
“So often you hear it takes a village, this is my village [referring to those present] and it takes every one of you,” said French. “I didn’t do it by myself. I was just in the position, in the moment, to have to go and put it all together and I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Always humble, French and his team conducted approximately 100 caisson missions and he also had the honor of planning and riding in the 58th Inaugural Presidential parade.
The motto of the caisson platoon is ‘Till our final ride, it'll always be our pride.’ French's final post ride showed that his pride in the U.S. Army will be lifelong and his impact will always be remembered by those he served with.
Concluding his tour of duty at U.S. Army North, he will officially retire from the Army after 20 years of honorable service in February 2022, where he will join his family in Germany.
The Fort Sam Houston Caisson Platoon proudly honors fallen members of the military with funeral honors at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. For more information visit: https://www.arnorth.army.mil/Outreach/Caisson-Platoon-Funeral-Honors/