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Cavalry earns its spurs

Posted: August 4, 2013 - 7:53pm  |  Updated: August 5, 2013 - 8:15am
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Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  Austin Makowski plays the role of a wounded soldier during a training exercise for Alaska National Guard troops Saturday August 3, 2013 in Kenai, Alaska.
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Austin Makowski plays the role of a wounded soldier during a training exercise for Alaska National Guard troops Saturday August 3, 2013 in Kenai, Alaska.

As part of its continued transition from an infantry company into a troop of 1-297th Cavalry Squadron, Kenai’s Alaska Army National Guard held a “spurs ride” over the weekend.

About 111 cavalry troopers from around the state set out to win their spurs by completing a series of combat-related tasks during a two-day testing event that took place at the Kenai National Guard Armory on South Forest Dr. and in the ravines of Kenai Municipal Park West.

Those testing worked their way through series of job-related tasks that started early Saturday with an 8-mile road march along the Kenai Spur Highway under heavy packs and ended with a traditional celebration dinner that night.

At one training station enlisted men and officers found a box of mixed weapons parts – a pistol, an assault rifle and a machine gun – awaiting a quick reassembly and a functions check. Troopers waiting their testing turns were kept busy and active doing push-ups or lifting the battlefield classic 84-pound Browning M-2HB .50 cal. heavy machine gun above their heads.

At another, the troopers were ambushed, during a simulated patrol, as an artillery simulator exploded. The men secured the site, recovered the “wounded,” began treatment and called for a medical evacuation.

The local guard began its conversion to a cavalry mission in 2008 and have since been modernized with the “latest and greatest” weapons and equipment, according to Brigade Commander Lt. Col. Chad Parker.

With some of the traditional language from horse-mounted warfare still about, including the Stetson hat, the cavalry’s current mount is the “up-armored Humvee.”

Recognized by the U.S. Army as a “tradition,” The Order of the Spur is not governed by Army Regulations as with other job-related testing, such as the Expert Infantry Badge. The exact testing and standards for the “ride” are decided by each squadron commander based on the needs of his troopers.

Parker said that Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Jose Gilbert decided to use the spur ride as a “team building exercise” and thus there were deviations from the standard, such as excluding higher standards of physical fitness and an expert qualification with personal weapons.

Rather than test individual skills, Guard leadership put men, enlisted and officer, into teams that had to work together to complete the tasks. No one individual could pass without the entire team.

“They pass as a team or fail as a team,” Parker said.

Though testing was abridged, to a degree, many in the unit wore Combat Infantry Badges and Combat Action Badges – signs that many have already seen combat in during the Global War on Terror.

Sgt. Michael Luper, a transitioning infantryman with seven years of service in the Alaska National Guard, was in his first attempt to earn his spurs and said the day’s testing was “more of a team thing.”

Luper acknowledged that he does like the older tradition, but that there is something more to the idea of everyone being equal and connected rather than the elite separated troopers from those that fail.

Brig. Gen. Leon “Mike” Bridges, Commander of the Alaska Army National Guard and Assistant Adjutant General, said the need to run a slightly different testing pattern for his cavalry troopers, would better build esprit de corps and bolster a deeper connection between the troopers than would a more traditional individual go-or-no-go testing, which would likely see about 80 percent of the men fail to win their spurs.

“It’s no good with (only) 10 to 20 percent walking away with spurs,” Bridges said.

Reach Greg Skinner at

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spwright 08/05/13 - 12:00 pm

8/5/13 A Soldier attempting to EARN the Right to Wear the Traditional BLACK STETSON COWBOY HAT & become a Member of the United States Army Cavalry has their Work Cut Out for Them.
They don't give those Stetsons away YOU HAVE TO EARN THOSE SPURS also.

My Father served with the Cavalry as a Horse Saddler & his Commanding Officer was Capt Harry S. Truman (later President Truman)
back in the day when they worn the Smokey the Bear Hats & actually rode Horses. They had to qualify w. a .45 Pistol riding at full speed & shoot w/ either the right or left hand & hit a target pinned to a hay bale.

Our Proud National Guardsmen have already Proven Themselves in Battle in 2005 Baghdad, Iraq.

Now Go & EARN THOSE SPURS ! SPW "Airborne"

spwright 08/05/13 - 12:37 pm
Cavalry Scout MEDAL of HONOR

will be awarded the MEDAL OF HONOR from PRESIDENT OBAMA later this month August 2013.

Combat OutPost Keating AFGHANISTAN October 3rd,2009
400 Taliban surround & over run this COP ONLY 54 USArmy Soldiers 54 vs 400
8 American KIAed & over 30 Wounded

please refer to the army homepage & read the "BattleScape" for exact details of this Terrible Fight for Their Lives in a Fire Fight that lasted over 12 very long hours.

SSG TY CARTER once served as a Combat Engineer in the MARINE Corp then enlisted in the USArmy & trained to become a CAVALRY SCOUT. He is Married w/ 4 Children & a Black Lab Dog. Now serving at Joint Base Lewis/McChord in Seattle Washington.
Interesting note : This is the 2nd Medal of Honor for this same Fire Fight, Time & Location. SSG CLINTON ROMESHA
awarded His MEDAL OF HONOR Last Winter 2012. Very Unusual events.
SPW "Airborne"

radiokenai 08/05/13 - 05:18 pm

So sad that good hearted patriotic heroes have be insulted by having their MOH tarnished from the deliverance from a president who in not worthy of his say nothing that he is certainly no "Commander in Chief"!

Remember these words he spoke:

"The Troops whine about bearing the costs of their choice" and that "Nobody made these guys go to war."

kenaigal 08/06/13 - 09:57 am

It's always a surprise to find men (and women) in camo, full packs, and weapons trudging along the Spur Hwy. early on a Saturday morning. Enough of a surprise that I went back to my house to get my camera. After a breakfast with my husband we spotted several more groups on the highway as they completed their 8 mile hike.

At that point my daughter and three of my grandsons and I followed to the Armory where we met and talked with General Bridges. At his invitation we went through the building and out to the back where several of the men took charge of my grandsons and showed them vehicles and other equipment. We had a delightful time. The personnel were patient and kind to the boys and at least one has said he would like to join up when he is older.

THANK YOU! to our armed services personnel.

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