FORT POLK, La. -They low crawled through mud, carried casualties, learned to throw grenades and moved across a field while under small arms fire. That is, water balloon "grenades" and electronic small arms fire resounding from speakers. This probably doesn't sound like normal training for a Soldier, but it was just a peek at Soldier training for more than 80 kids of the 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division May 7 for the unit's annual Kid's Spur Ride at the Siegfried Youth Center.
Cavalry is a branch of the Army that is steeped in tradition. The Soldiers wear Stetson hats and earn spurs through either deployments or a "Spur Ride." Earning spurs dates back to the beginning of the cavalry, when new "troopers" joined cavalry units. Through time within the unit, the trooper would get better at riding their horse and handling equipment. Only after they could prove their skills with the horse and sabre did they earn the right to wear spurs.
The spur ride for the Soldiers deals with a series of physical and mental tests over a span of days that evaluates their leadership and skills in the face of extreme fatigue and high levels of stress. Only after completion do the Soldiers earn the right to wear the silver spurs. Upon completion of a combat tour, Soldiers may wear gold spurs.
The unit made it a little easier for the children. The 3/89 Cav set up fun activities: Carrying casualties in groups, consuming meals ready to eat, reacting to indirect fire, a grenade assault and obstacle course and a low crawling pit.
The children learned the importance of carrying a casualty to safety and raced down the lane as fast as they could, stopping to cover the wounded Soldier when they heard gunfire.
They low crawled their way across Siegfried Youth Center's field, while other cavalry Soldiers threw water balloons to simulate mortar rounds.
The obstacle course, with the assistance of Directorate of Emergency Services fire trucks, was sprayed down to create a muddy lane for low crawling. Some of the children were ready to get dirty and low crawled like professionals. Others tried to stay somewhat clean and crawled on their hands and knees.
The obstacle course included two chances for the kids to try their arm at throwing grenades, which were actually water balloons. The children raced through tire obstacles and crawled under logs and over walls.
Soldiers sometimes have to settle for meals ready to eat when they're out in the field or deployed. The children got a taste of that, too. Meals ranged from meatloaf to pot roast with vegetables to spaghetti with meat sauce. Some children weren't too keen on eating the food and opted for safe choices like crackers, but others appeared to enjoy their meals.
At the end of the spur ride, the children received their own Stetson and spurs and some remained for the spurring ceremony.
During the ceremony, the spur earner gets in a push-up position. Two Soldiers grab the earner's legs and lift them up. One Soldier then puts both spurs on the earner's shoes and officially spurs them. "It's a great chance for the kids to understand what daddy does and to have fun while doing it," said Capt. Jared Carter, 3/89 Cav rear detachment commander.
After completing the spur ride and with hat in hand, Jake Gilchrist, 5, asked one of the Soldiers if he was now a Soldier too.
Harlen Boose, 10, enjoyed the entire day. "My favorite part was the obstacle course and getting dirty in the mud," he said.
Trisha Williams, mother of Markus, 7, and Kianna, 5, said her children also enjoyed the day. "They both really liked the obstacle course and Markus went through it twice. The only think they didn't like were the MREs," she said.
Jessica Boose said her daughter, Hylaina, 6, "just enjoyed being with daddy." Her husband, 1st Sgt. Jason Boose, arrived home that morning for his leave from Afghanistan. Some of their children were eager to show off their skills for him.
In cavalry fashion, many of the children of the 3/89 Cav have followed their fathers in the spur tradition.