Story by. Capt. Taylor Criswell, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade Public Affairs
ILLESHEIM, Germany—Over 80 cavalry Troopers are inducted into the legendary Order of the Spur Friday during a ceremony at Storck Barracks.
“Air Cav” Soldiers currently on rotation for Atlantic Resolve in Germany spent the last 48 hours performing feats of individual grit, resilience, and team esprit de corps in hopes of gaining the accouterments of a true cavalry Trooper- a set of spurs.
“They came out here as volunteers to carry the torch and guard the flame of the reputation of our great unit,” stated Col. Reggie Harper, commander of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade during the presentation of spurs ceremony. “Despite the discomfort and despite challenges, they refused to quit.”
Earning one’s spurs harkens back to the time of knights and the beginnings of the cavalry when a new cavalrymen would be given a horse with a shaved tail, designating them as amateur riders. These green troopers would not be given spurs until they had proven themselves worthy by way of rigorous training and demonstrations of competence.
“We hold spur rides to honor the traditions of the cavalry and the cavalry trooper,” said Capt. Trevor Schmitt, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade. “From the beginning of cavalry history, every Trooper has had to earn their right to be a cavalry Trooper; to earn those spurs or to be able to ride that horse and to fight for what they believe in. The spur ride is our way to test our soldiers, give them that representation of our history and a chance to earn the coveted title of ‘spur holder.’”
Every spur candidate had to pull their weight for their team’s collective success; a cornerstone tenet for the U.S. Cavalry.
“The reliance on camaraderie during the spur ride reflects directly back to the origins of being a cavalry scout in a small team, out front, bringing information back to the commander,” explained Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dan Hodge, Senior Warrant Officer Advisor for 615th Aviation Support Battalion. “You can’t do that by yourself, so we rely on this event to bring the teamwork aspect back into today’s Army, to keep the heritage and traditions alive and instill the basic principles of being a soldier and cavalry Trooper.”
While each unit may put a unique spin on how they execute a spur ride, the poem “Fiddler’s Green” is something all candidates must learn and recite by memory. Lt. Col. Brad DeLoach, commander of 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment described this as a “non-negotiable” and something every cavalry Trooper must be able to do.
Chaplain (Capt.) Stephanie Okolo, battalion chaplain for 2nd battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment described her spur ride experience as “amazing.” She said, “Chaplains spend a lot of time with Soldiers, but it’s good to walk the path with them to understand what they go through.”
“Air Cav” spur candidates started the ride with a full layout of their packed gear to demonstrate attention to detail followed by a series of team physical fitness events, such as deadlifts, kettlebell swings, hand-release push-ups and burpees. Teams were given a total number of repetitions for each exercise to be divided amongst individuals however necessary to reach the total number.
Each team completed various training objectives including medical evacuation scenarios, a confidence course, and a nighttime tactical movement exercise, just to mention a few. The first evening concluded with knowledge enhancement activities and historical vignettes about the notable legacy of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.
The spur ride also included a brief visit to the local Muna Museum near Oberdachstetten Training Area; a massive collection of American and German military artifacts from the last 80 years. The all-volunteer staff provided tours to spur candidate teams highlighting the history of American military presence in Middle Franconia and the importance of a strong German-American friendship.
The spur ride finale was a chilly 5.5-mile ruck race directly into a board to test each candidate’s knowledge of the U.S. Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division and “Air Cav” unit history.
This spur ride was not for the faint of heart as noted by the brigade commander.
“These Troopers embodied the warrior ethos by not giving up on themselves or one another, over the last 48 plus hours, despite the challenges,” said Harper. “That is something that every one of us should strive for.”