By U.S. ArmyOctober 28, 2009
FORT HOOD, Texas - In the old days, a cavalry trooper was given an inexperienced horse with no tail as a way to show his own inexperience.
Today's cavalry trooper is no different ... except for the horse.
Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Felt, the Fort Hood Garrison sergeant major, and a former command sergeant major for the squadron, shared that story with the candidates -- nearly 60 of them throughout the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, set out last week during three days of intense testing and a display of their physical prowess.
The silver spurs the candidates were vying for was a trophy they'd earn after completing an Army Physical Fitness Test, in which they'd be graded in youngest age group and would have to achieve 75 percent in order to move on to a written exam. From there, they'd start their night and day land navigation.
If they passed, the rest would be attainable, said Lt. Col. John Cushing, the squadron's commander of Rochester, Mich.
"If you've made it this far, you should be able to make it the rest of the way," Cushing told the candidates just before their night land navigation.
The rest of the testing consisted of more than a dozen different Cavalry Scout-related tasks and a 12-mile road march.
The Squadron returned from a year-long deployment to Iraq and most of its members earned the golden, "combat spurs."
For most of the troopers who already have their combat spurs, earning the silver spurs was something they believed was a "right of passage."
Yet, a few, who are new to the unit, earning the silver spurs is the only set they'll get a chance to have.
For Sgt. William Farmer, a Troop B Cavalry Scout, who just arrived to the unit two weeks before the spur ride, testing for the silver spur was something he felt he had to do.
"Not everyone has it, and the ones who have it take great pride in having them," Farmer said.
Farmer's commander, Capt. Ben Jackman, of Princeton, N.J., joined the unit during their deployment. This was the first opportunity for the Ranger-tabbed Infantry officer to test for his silver spurs. He said wanted to go through the spur ride to be out with his Soldiers.
"It's fantastic training," he said. "It's a great way for Soldiers, who are proficient in Scout skills, to show their excellence in a realist and physically tough environment."
That's exactly what attracted Sgt. Victoria Talveras, of Boston, to the spur ride. "I feel pumped up," she said after the road march. "I just like all the physical stuff ... and keeping up with the guys."
Talveras, who is a food service sergeant assigned to the Squadron's support unit, Company D, Forward Support Company, was one of only two females to enter the spur ride.
Looking back, she said the toughest part of the spur ride was the sleep deprivation they would all encounter in the three days ... and, oh, yeah, the rain.
"It sucked ... during the Claymore mines, it was two in the morning in the rain," she recalled. "Even though it was cold, windy and pouring rain, I kept on going because I don't like to quit; it would have eaten away at me if I'd quit."
And for retired Col. Joe Bowen, a former member of the Squadron during the Vietnam War, being able to watch today's Headhunter was "humbling."
"Being out here with these young guys ... for us old guys, it's very humbling to see what this generation is doing to carry on our traditions," said Bowen, who serves as the 1st Sqdrn., 9th Cav. Regt.'s Bullwhip Association president.
Bowen, along with a handful of other former Squadron members were invited to the spur ceremony and dinner at the Elijah Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain facility on Fort Hood.
The Bullwhip Association paid for all the spurs and beverages during the spur ceremony dinner at the MOUT site.
During the dinner, Felt, as the guest speaker, reminded the candidates that he was proud of them for stepping up and taking the challenge of not only the spur ride, but also on the global war on terrorism. He reminded them that by earning their spurs, they have proven that they have earned the right of passage.
"Some of you have earned combat spurs, and now you have earned silver spurs," said Felt. "You've crossed that line from inexperienced to experienced ... you're authorized full tale and spurs."