Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to Task Force Red Dragon, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, navigate an obstacle course during a spur ride Aug. 20, 2022, in Manda Bay, Kenya. The spur ride included physical training events, an obstacle course, rifle and pistol live-fire, weapons familiarization and testing stations, reconnaissance and medical evacuation lanes, and a night call for fire and crew-served weapons live-fire event. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by Staff Sgt. Jeff Clements)
Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to Task Force Red Dragon, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, navigate an obstacle course during a spur ride Aug. 20, 2022, in Manda Bay, Kenya. The spur ride included physical training events, an obstacle course, rifle and pistol live-fire, weapons familiarization and testing stations, reconnaissance and medical evacuation lanes, and a night call for fire and crew-served weapons live-fire event. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by Staff Sgt. Jeff Clements) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Jeff Clements) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP SIMBA, Kenya – Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Red Dragon, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, held a spur ride Aug. 20 in Manda Bay, Kenya.

Twenty-eight service members, including two members of the U.S. Air Force, were divided into four teams to participate in physically and mentally challenging events for the chance to become a spur holder.

The spur ride included an obstacle course, rifle and pistol live-fire, reconnaissance and medical evacuation lanes, and a night call for fire and crew-served weapons live-fire event. Spur candidates moved nearly everywhere on foot and were quizzed by spur holders on basic warrior tasks.

The Order of the Spur is a tradition dating to the beginning of the U.S. Cavalry. New troopers were assigned a horse with a shaved tail to let those around them know they were beginning their journey as a cavalryman and were not yet proficient in their skills as a horseman. Today, those service members who set out to earn their spurs are nicknamed “shave-tails,” while those conducting the event are referred to as spur holders.

“The spur ride is a U.S Cavalry tradition that traces its roots back hundreds of years,” said Capt. Ronnie Brown, Bravo Troop commander. “The event tests young cavalrymen physically and mentally to validate their skills as experts in their craft. In all senses, it is a rite of passage, and we continue the tradition of testing U.S cavalrymen in their quest to earn their spurs.”

The event began at 5 a.m. with an equipment showdown to ensure each spur candidate had what they needed to complete the course. “Shave tails” dumped the contents of their rucksacks, held items above their head, and prepared for a long day in pursuit of their spurs.

Teamwork is essential. Shave-tails must stick together during these high-stress and rigorous events, finishing all activities together while scrutinized by the squadron spur holders. Teams are graded on their performance throughout the event.

“This is the pinnacle of being a cavalry Soldier,” said Sgt. Bryan Skipworth, a spur candidate with Bravo Troop. “You want to reaffirm that you know your skills. It is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to do the spur ride in Kenya.”

The event culminated with a night crew served weapons live-fire, utilizing night vision capabilities, call for fire with infrared illuminating mortar projectiles, and firing the M320 grenade launcher with 40 mm high explosive rounds. Afterward, the spur candidates ruck-marched from the live-fire range back to Camp Simba, where they received their spurs and enjoyed some much-earned accolades from fellow service members.

“This was an amazing opportunity for our troopers,” Brown said. “There are very few, if any, that can say they earned their spurs in Africa. The quality of this event is a direct reflection of the high-caliber noncommissioned officers planning the event. I could not be more proud of what the participants and cadre accomplished.”

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