Contracting Soldiers rein support for Army’s caisson platoon

By Daniel P. Elkins, Mission and Installation Contracting Command Public Affairs OfficeAugust 14, 2023

Contracting Soldiers rein support for Army’s caisson platoon
Staff Sgt. Joshua Tyler and Monique Hovey have teamed together in recent weeks to procure horses to serve on the caisson platoon of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard.” Tyler is a contracting specialist with the 419th Contracting Support Brigade and Hovey is the herd manager with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 14, 2023) -- The procurement of supplies and services by a contracting Soldier assigned to the 419th Contracting Support Brigade at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, took on a unique experience recently with the acquisition of two Percheron horses from Rimbey, located in central Alberta, Canada.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Tyler teamed with Monique Hovey, herd manager for the 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, known as The Old Guard, to travel to Canada and procure 11-year-old Sherman and 9-year-old Grant to join the U.S. Army’s specialty caisson platoon.

“This was a great experience for me – I never imagined I’d be in rural Canada executing a procurement for horses,” Tyler said. “The whole experience was awesome – from the beauty of the farmland and Canadian countryside to the hands-on experience of contracting in action and watching the horses get loaded up and sent off to a noble mission.”

Tyler was among four Mission and Installation Contracting Command Soldiers on temporary duty to Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, executing the expedited acquisition in support of the caisson platoon, which provides memorial support to Arlington National Cemetery, transporting the remains of qualified service members and veterans to their final resting place via horse-drawn wagons. Also supporting the mission were Lt. Col. Adam Salazar, commander of the 905th Contracting Battalion at Fort Liberty, and 419th CSB contracting professionals Maj. Burton McCarthy and Master Sgt. Eliud Temblador.

MICC Soldiers are part of a relief-in-place mission to provide contracting expertise for the caisson platoon in support of the organization’s first modernization effort of saddles and wagons in more than 75 years, hiring of additional experts from the equine and agricultural fields, and increase in the quality of life for the horses. Soldiers from the MICC’s 418th CSB at Fort Cavazos, Texas, assumed the mission last week and will continue to provide contract support as part of the plan to sustain enhanced military honors.

The 419th CSB team found itself relying heavily on Hovey to develop the initial mid-July contract requirement for horses. Federal regulations call for market research as part of the acquisition planning process to promote full and open competition and ensure the Army’s needs are being met in the most efficient, effective and economical manner.

“The horse community is very small, so market research is done by the herd manager. She is the subject matter expert when it comes to horse procurement,” Tyler said. “The herd manager and Army Equine Vet Corps have a very thorough pre-approval process that any horse must pass before they are considered within standard for The Old Guard mission set.”

Tyler and Hovey next traveled to Canada July 23-25 where she test rode the two Percheron equine to ensure the horses met standards outlined in the firm fixed price contract requirement valued at $11,400. Similar standards must be met for all equine purchases.

“For the transportation of the horses from the seller’s location back to Virginia, I used a proven government system – System for Award Management – to inquire about contractors who would be able to transport the horses in a safe and humane manner,” Tyler said.

Now in Virginia, Sherman and Grant, who were joined by a pair of 6-year-old Clydesdales named Rooster and Ranger recently purchased in Iowa, are in quarantine awaiting the start of training later this month as part of the specialty platoon. In the coming weeks, they will be joined by two Friesian horses being procured from Indiana – one already named Truman and the other to uphold the presidential namesake as Kennedy.

Hovey, who began her role as caisson herd manager in August 2022, is responsible for overseeing that training as well as all aspects of equine welfare from adoption to retirement, including daily care and missions.

“My duties are very diverse, but I am lucky to call this a dream job. I am able to train horses as needed to support all aspects of our mission,” said Hovey, whose background is in agriculture education. “I love overseeing the basic horsemanship course and have worked with the platoon to improve the course during my time here.”

She’s quick to add that overseeing horses is a lot more about human management than horses and entails a sizable administrative workload.

“During your first semester in an equine science or management program, a good equine professor will tell you that if you’re in the room to work with more horses than people, you’re in the wrong room,” Hovey explained. “The horses are the easy part of my job. However, the day-to-day tasks are what I love about this job. I am able to do hands-on work and academic-style work. I am lucky to have landed this job.”

She explained that Veterinary Corps policy establishes a 21-day quarantine, which applies to the four new horses already a part of the caisson platoon. Following quarantine, the four horses begin training next week for their eventual ceremonial roles. In addition to military funeral honors, the caisson platoon also represents the U.S. Army in special ceremonies and outreach events inside the National Capital Region, including Spirit of America and the Twilight Tattoo.

The 3d U.S. Infantry, traditionally known as "The Old Guard," is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving our nation since 1784. The Old Guard is the Army's official ceremonial unit and escort to the president, and it also provides security for Washington, D.C., in time of national emergency or civil disturbance.

“We are selecting and reviewing horses that are almost finished. In the equine industry, finished is subjective to the job for which the horse is expected to perform,” Hovey explained. “For us, we need neck-reined horses that understand the biomechanics of properly pulling a wagon. Grant, Sherman, Ranger and Rooster are all trained to ride and drive. However, they all need more training in neck reining, which could take two to six weeks or more, depending on the animal.”

During that time, she will continue to desensitize the horses to stimuli for work in a public environment, which takes into consideration any training they may have already received prior to joining the caisson platoon.

“Many horses will not have learned to ride and drive as driving is a less common skill. At a minimum, the horses we are considering for purchase must be finished riding horses,” she continued. “Horses that have not been trained to drive will take longer to desensitize and round their bodies appropriately while pulling the weight of a wagon.”

A team of six horses pull a flag-draped casket on a black artillery caisson as part of the Arlington National Cemetery funeral procession. Contracted services and equipment in support of the caisson platoon as well as the cemetery and ceremonial units is administered by the MICC contracting office at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

About the MICC:

Headquartered at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Mission and Installation Contracting Command consists of about 1,300 military and civilian members who are responsible for contracting goods and services in support of Soldiers as well as readying trained contracting units for the operating force and contingency environment when called upon. MICC contracts are vital in feeding more than 200,000 Soldiers every day, providing many daily base operations support services at installations, facilitate training in the preparation of more than 100,000 conventional force members annually, training more than 500,000 students each year, and maintaining more than 14.4 million acres of land and 170,000 structures.