More than 250 troopers with the 6th squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division received their silver spurs and induction into the “Order of the Spur” during a ceremony Wednesday at the unit motor pool.
According to Capt. Timothy Mahoney, 6/8th Cav. Regt. public affairs representative, the expression of having to “earn your spurs” goes back to the early days of the U.S. cavalry when new troopers were assigned a horse with a shaved tail. Not only did they have to become proficient on horseback, they had to learn how to use a saber while riding a horse.
“Because they were green troopers, they were not issued spurs, which would only make it more difficult to control a horse and wield a saber,” Mahoney explained. “They literally had to earn the right to wear spurs.”
Today’s cavalry troopers earn their spurs either by serving in combat with a cavalry unit or completing a “spur ride,” a grueling 36-hour exercise that tests their individual and team skills, Mahoney said.
The spur ride began Monday with an air movement via UH-60 helicopters to an unknown landing zone, where they had to evade detection by opposition forces then locate, treat and evacuate a casualty. Other tasks included a recon mission, a “stress shoot” with an M4 rifle, a machine gun live-fire, a call for fire mission, an obstacle course and lastly, a cavalry board during which troopers were grilled on their knowledge of regimental history and general doctrine.
The exhausted troopers received their spurs following a traditional “spur dinner,” with a ceremony that began with the unit’s first sergeants reporting to a table to receive certificates for their perspective troopers. The certificates came in tarred canvas haversacks, which were used by cavalry troopers in the past to store their rations, eating utensils and important papers.
When they returned to their tables, the unit’s command sergeant major gave the order, “Prepare to mount,” causing hundreds of troopers to rise quickly from their tables and stand at attention behind their folding chairs.
A second command by the sergeant major to “mount” sent chairs into the air as troopers turned them around, sat them down then stepped up on them, again standing at attention.
As troop commanders and first sergeants walked between the rows of tables issuing certificates to troopers who completed the Spur Ride, Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, himself a former cavalry officer, awarded silver spurs and certificates to the team of troopers who sat with him at the command table. They had had the best record during the spur ride, completing all tasks without losing a team member.
“I joined the 8th Cavalry Regiment in 1986 at Fort Hood, Texas, and I’ve proudly worn that same crest that you have on ever since,” Abrams told the troopers. “When you get promoted to general, you lose your branch affiliation, but you get to choose what branch or regimental affiliation you wear, and I wear that 8th Cavalry Regimental crest with great pride.”
Abrams, who said he served twice with the 8th Cavalry Mustangs, told the young troopers to take special pride in what they had accomplished and especially for being a Mustang. He pointed out that the Medal of Honor had been awarded to more cavalry soldiers than any other branch in the Army.