By Pfc. Adam Halleck, 1st BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div., MND-BNovember 13, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - In order for a trooper to be inducted in the Order of the Spur, and earn the privilege of wearing silver spurs, he must survive a demanding test of tactical and technical knowledge.
Known as a "Spur Ride", the twenty four hour plus event is considered one of the most physically and mentally grueling Army traditions that dates back to the beginning of the United States Cavalry.
On Oct. 7, ninety seven troopers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team,1st Cavalry Division, along with six Iraqi Army Soldiers from the 37th Brigade, 9th IA Division, challenged themselves for their chance to earn the coveted silver spurs.
In the former days of the cavalry the uninitiated Soldiers were called "shave tails", a reference to the shaved tails of their horses which symbolized that the troopers inexperience and unproven skills.
During the event, candidates are pushed to their physical limits during a ten mile road march. The experience is conducted by the troopers' peers, superiors and subordinates, all of whom earned their silver spurs during a previous spur ride.
"Come on ops! You know you want this," shouted spur holder 1st Sgt. William Aimes to the battalion operations sergeant major, Sgt. 1st Class Ward Wright, who was participating in hopes of receiving his induction.
"You can't task me out here, but I can make you low crawl," joked Aimes.
The spur holders pull no punches when testing the candidates. The basis behind a "Spur Ride" is to test the versatility of a cavalryman to work as a member of a team under extreme levels of stress and fatigue.
"They [the spur holders] make it very tough to earn your spurs," said Spc. Phillip Hobbs. "Not only do you have to road march ten miles, you have to survive the physical and mental stresses the spur holders put on you," added the Louisville, Ky. native. "It's a great feeling when you're done though, because you and your team have proven yourselves as cavalrymen."
As a cavalryman, being inducted into the Order of the Spur provides legitimacy in troopers' abilities and experience.
"A long time ago, not having spurs meant you were an amateur, unskilled and unproven," said Lt. Col. Eric Schwegler, commander of the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment. "It was only through training, preparation, and testing did the candidate emerge as a peer among real troopers."
"Last night was a sort of validation," Schwegler added, during the Order of the Spur induction ceremony. "You qualified yourselves to stand among a lot of great cavalry troopers that have earned the right to wear these silver spurs."
Maintaining the tradition of the Order of the Spur is one way that Soldiers here connect to the history of the United States Army. Sharing their traditions with their Iraqi counterparts leaves a lasting impact and strengthens camaraderie between both security forces.
"It was a great experience to do this with our American friends," said Pfc. Ayad Madhloom Husain, an IA Soldier who earned his spurs during the event. "I hope that we in the Iraqi army can one day have our own traditions as well.