FORT HOOD — Families of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment gathered as its “special guest” for the evening made his way toward the O’hana Place.

Children rushed into the street as Santa drove up on a decorated Stryker during the regimental tree-lighting ceremony Wednesday.

The event was symbolic of the regiment’s transition from an armored unit to a Stryker organization.

“The fact that we’re bringing in Santa on a Stryker is going to kind of hone in that we made that conversion,” said Capt. Ryan Swisher, assistant operations officer for Regimental Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Regiment. “It just shows that this command team really emphasizes that we’re a Stryker unit now.”

Col. John B. Richardson, regimental commander, wished event-goers a safe and joyous holiday.

“I’m absolutely proud and astounded at everything that you all have accomplished over the last 12 months,” Richardson said. “As we move into the holiday season, this is a well-deserved break for you all.”

Swisher oversaw the event and said it was a way to share the holiday spirit while strengthening unit cohesion.

“It’s one of those things that brings the entire regiment together and gets the families out here on post to see where their spouses work,” Swisher said, adding he expected about 800 people to attend.

Tracie Mayshack and Joni Schildman, both family readiness support assistants for the regiment, spent about a month volunteering to organize the event.

It’s important for the spirit and morale of the regiment, Schildman said.

“We want to provide unity,” Mayshack said.

Cari Pridgen attended the event with her husband and 2-year-old son, Mason, so they could enjoy the holiday festivities and get a photo with Santa.

“Mason’s always excited,” she said. “This is the first time we’re back in Texas with our family and we’re just trying to enjoy as much as we can with the Christmas holidays coming up.”

Toni Patterson, whose husband is in Fires Squadron, said it’s great that nobody in the unit is deployed.

“It’s just nice to see that we are a family, a huge family, and we’re all together,” she said. “We just love hanging out together.”

The couple attended with their two children, Dylan, 7, and Amelia, 5. They were both excited as they stood in line to see Santa and his two elves.

“Anytime there’s any kind of squadron event, we like to take advantage of it because our kids get to see soldiers and where their dad works,” Patterson said. “It’s just fun. We just love it.”

Contact Sarah Rafique at or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at

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