FORT HOOD — Standing at 5 feet 2 inches and surrounded by experienced horsemen, Capt. Elizabeth Rascon mounted the tallest horse at the 1st Cavalry Division’s Horse Cavalry Detachment bareback on the first try.
“I surprised myself,” said the former member of the West Point equestrian team about the detachment’s audition process. “I hadn’t done that before. I’ve never had to jump onto a horse bareback.”
Rascon made history Friday as the first woman to take command of the 42-year-old horse detachment — a unit dedicated to keeping the spirit and traditions of the 1880s cavalry alive. With 31 horses, five mules and two dogs, the detachment conducts weekly demonstrations of the techniques of the time period, as well as performs in rodeos and parades throughout the local community.
“When I get in front of troopers, I don’t want them to see me as a little woman on a horse, but as a commander,” she said.
Larry Borth, the detachment’s civilian equestrian trainer and stable master for the past 20 years, said Rascon has the energy, enthusiasm and knowledge to take on the job. He expects her prior experience with horses to cut the typical transition time in half.
Rascon said she grew up in Mesquite riding horses and continued to ride at the U.S. Military Academy.
“Capt. Rascon is going to hit the ground running with a lot of missions to support,” Borth said. “I have no doubt she has the capability to take the reins at full gallop.”
Rascon was commissioned in May 2010 as a transportation officer and deployed to Iraq in May 2011 with the division’s 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
She most recently served in Afghanistan as the aide to another ground-breaking female officer — Brig. Gen. Laura Richardson, the first woman to be named the deputy commander of an Army maneuver division.
When Richardson left that post with 1st Cav to serve as the deputy chief of staff of communication for International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan, Rascon joined her as her aide-de-camp for one year. She said she kept the notebook with all her notes from that year.
“She is a tremendous professional,” Rascon said. “I felt so lucky to see her in action. She’s done it right.”
She added that the two never really discussed Richardson’s firsts as a woman, and it’s something she isn’t dwelling on either.
“I’m not focused on being the first female commander, I’m focused on how to be a commander,” Rascon said.
The detachment’s calendar is filled with division ceremonies and community parades this summer, and the young captain said she’s eager to get into the saddle.
“What I’m most looking forward to is leading troopers across the field in my first cavalry charge.”