‘Black Knights’ spend an evening with ‘Blackhawks’
Staff Sgt. Gerald Hodge,
1st Sqdn., 1st Cav. Regt.:
Twenty-six West Point cadets received the chance to participate in a time-honored cavalry tradition: the spur ride, hosted by the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Aug. 7 and 8.
The horses that cavalrymen rode were exchanged for modern fighting vehicles in the early 1930s, yet the tradition and spirit of the spur ride has not been forgotten.
The selection process for this honored award is a fast-paced, stressful challenge that pushes participants to their limits both physically and emotionally. Not everyone receives the badge of honor due to the lengthy, grueling process.
Lt. Col. Keith Pruitt, commander of the 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, briefed the young men about the spur ride and squadron’s traditions.
“We have been honored that the West Point cadets are amongst our ranks,” Pruitt said. “This is a great learning experience for the cadets, and they can be honored as cavalrymen. No matter where they go, they can wear their spurs as honorary ‘Blackhawks.’”
With sunlight leaving the motor pool, the spur candidates began with a written test on the history of the unit. After the written test, a couple of cadets were chosen to sing the West Point song and demonstrate how they would motivate their teams.
Upon completion the candidates marched around the motor pool learning different creeds and mottos that they were required to recite later.
Then came the difficult 12-mile course that each candidate was required to march while wearing a more than 30-pound pack in less than three hours.
There were six stations positioned around the brigade area of operations that candidates walked throughout the night in order to be trained on various cavalry tasks.
As exhaustion set in, cadets began falling asleep while standing at the different stations.
“This is pretty tough and a challenge,” said Croix Miller, one of the cadets. “You learn a lot about yourself as well as how to work as a team and how to be a leader.”
With the sun and temperature beginning to rise, the candidates moved to the final event: the obstacle course.
“It was a good experience that provided a broad base of training that encompassed skills like how to call for fire to searching an enemy prisoner of war,” said William Guiney, a cadet. “Doing it in garrison better prepares you for the stress of a deployment.”
The spur ride was a great opportunity for leadership building, said one of the cadets, Erik Wittendorf.
With another spur ride complete, the troops can carry away with them the longstanding tradition and honor of the 1st Sqdn., 1st Cav. Regt., “Blackhawks” and the history that they continue to write.
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