By Staff Sgt. Garrett RalstonApril 2, 2011
BABIL, Iraq - The average deployed Soldier will find themselves in situations where they are required to push their mental and physical limits. Some Soldiers choose to reach for a point beyond that limit.
Soldiers of the Regimental Support Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, serving on Contingency Operating Site Kalsu, recently had the opportunity to join their brothers and sisters in the highly coveted "Order of the Spur," pushing themselves and their comrades during a traditional Cavalry "Spur Ride."
Lt. Col. Timothy Luedecking, commander of RSS, said the purpose of the event was to bring the squadron together, promote friendly competition and motivate Troopers to enhance their familiarity with basic combat functions.
A Spur Ride typically incorporates a series of stations where Soldiers will have to think and work as a team in order to pass to the next obstacle and, once completed, "earn their spurs."
Several teams of eight to 10 candidates began the grueling gauntlet around 5 a.m. After receiving a set of briefings, the teams set out to their respective test sites.
The first of six sites required Troopers to take a written exam based on Cavalry knowledge and basic Soldier skill level tasks. The remaining stations were designed to assess individual and team ability to make decisions and execute tasks under physical and mental stress.
Throughout the day, teams were tested on their radio and communications skills, weapons familiarity that included blindfolded reassembly and functions checks, a Humvee pull and a chemical awareness site.
At each station, teams who failed to meet the standard were afforded the chance to "buy back" their mistakes with group exercises.
"Having to do PT with all our gear and mask on was really tough," said 1st Lt. Sarah A. Barron of the squadron's support operations shop, and a Fairmont, W.V., native. "It's been a lot of fun, and our teamwork is what's getting us through."
A complex medical skills lane required Troopers to successfully move under simulated fire, assess and transport casualties, and maintain accountability of their team and equipment. A sound system provided realistic combat sounds that included machine gun fire and artillery explosions.
"Soldiers at this location have to be able to maintain cover, treat their casualties and keep moving toward the transport site," said Sgt. 1st Class Ileanette Pla, Medical Troop first sergeant, originally from Mineola, N.Y. "After they negotiate the first half, they will have to low crawl underneath another obstacle, where they encounter indirect fire while still keeping control of the wounded."
Each station saw exhausted and muddied Soldiers struggling to keep calm and motivated while being pushed harder by each of the instructors.
"This challenge keeps the history of the Cavalry alive and promotes team cohesion too," said Pla. "At each site the teams really have to come together in order to complete their tasks successfully."
Pla said most of the candidates were performing tasks that are not required of them on a daily basis, and this helps to sharpen those specific skills.
As the sun began to set on COS Kalsu, the teams gathered on the deck of the Support Squadron's headquarters for their hard-earned spur certificates. The official ceremony marked the Soldiers' entrance into a time-honored legacy of the Cavalry's elite.