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Brave Rifles build camaraderie

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Posted: Monday, August 13, 2012 6:04 pm

While all units have a sense of pride, there is something just a little different about the loyalty of a 3rd Cavalry Regiment soldier.

"This is the first unit I can honestly say I'm proud to be a part of," said Capt. Scott Noland, communication officer for the regiment's 3rd Squadron.

Even with just a few weeks in "Brave Rifles," as the regiment is known, he knew the 165-year-old unit cherished its heritage.

Noland is one of many new faces to join the regiment over the last year, after it dropped "armored" from its name and traded in its tanks for the more agile Stryker vehicle. This also meant the once armor-heavy unit became filled with infantrymen who knew nothing of being in the cavalry.

To teach these new soldiers cavalry and regiment traditions while building camaraderie, 3rd "Thunder" Squadron conducted a four-day spur ride — the traditional rite of passage for any cavalryman.

"It's good to be part of a unit with good flair and good traditions," said the event's planner, Capt. Jarrin Jackson, squadron systems operations officer. "I would never want to be part of a unit that's second rate. (Third Cavalry Regiment) has got a good personality that I like, and I'm proud to be part of it."

As a light infantryman, he too had a lot to learn about the cavalry.

"We'll take the lessons we've learned ... and template that with where we are going in the future," he said.

Held from July 30 to Aug. 3, the spur ride encompassed every stage of the regiment's history, including an 1870s reconnaissance mission on horseback, a ride on UH-1 Huey helicopters to deliver solders for land navigation and a ruck march that included history trivia questions.

"Different branches have different awards for excellence," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Byrom, squadron commander, of the silver spurs earned at such an event. Gold spurs are earned in combat and have become much more common in the last 10 years of war.

"We challenged ourselves with a unique spur ride and it was a great success in both motivating leaders and motivating other soldiers in the formation, who've heard about it and want to compete in the next one," he said.

The unit's 13 spur holders served as mentors to the 40 soldiers who passed the preliminary round to compete to earn spurs.

"I'd never done half the things we did this week," Noland said during the spur ceremony Thursday. He serves in an office job, admitting to only going into the field once over the past seven years. But through the spur ride, he feels a sense of belonging with his fellow soldiers.

"I am the only communications guy in the entire (spur ride) and I don't feel like it," said Noland. "I don't feel like I stand out."

'Cavalry's legacy'

First Lt. Ryan Herring, an intelligence officer with less than a year in the regiment, said his favorite part of the spur ride was by far the horses.

"That's the cavalry's legacy. It gives you a new-found respect for cavalrymen, because riding them was challenging in itself, but to do it in battle with a weapon. That's tremendous," he said.

For the horse reconnaissance mission, Fort Hood Museum Director Steven Draper dressed in the traditional blue wool coat, tall black leather boots and Stetson of the traditional cavalrymen of the 19th century to read soldiers their mission.

"This is a major transportation route for hostiles," he said, holding the cigar and pointing toward the parchment paper map spread before him. "It's also a major route for settlers going into Oregon. We need accurate drawings of the area."

Soldiers then took fresh parchment paper and charcoal and headed toward the horses provided by "local scouts," or Brenda Ramos and the staff of BLORA Ranch's Horsin' Around, to complete the mission.

This was also the first spur ride to incorporate Strykers, giving soldiers much needed time to ride around in their new vehicles.

"I'm extremely proud of them for the attitude they held," said Byrom. "There were long days and they did not get a lot of sleep. They did extremely well with complex tasks."

Each of the 40 spur contenders earned their silver spurs, which they received on horseback at BLORA Ranch. They will now be allowed to wear the spurs, along with the trademark Stetson, as part of their uniform during approved functions.

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