112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Eighty members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 105th Cavalry Squadron, entered a gauntlet of physical, mental and environmental challenges known as a Spur Ride Aug. 4-5 at Fort McCoy, Wis. - and 34 emerged with a pair of silver spurs and a coveted place in the Order of the Spur.
"The Silver Spurs for a cavalryman is a rite of passage and proves to the rest of your comrades that you are worth your salt," said Lt. Col. Bill Kehoe, commander of the 1st Battalion, 105th Cavalry Squadron - commonly referred to as the 105th Cav. "It is an epic accomplishment for a cavalryman."
This was the first Spur Ride ever conducted by the 105th Cav, a subordinate unit of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The tradition of wearing spurs and the Stetson hats is unique to the Cavalry, and earning one's spurs is held in the same regard as earning the expert or combat infantry badge.
Capt. David Shamsi, officer in charge of the 105th Cav's Spur Ride, said the spurs and Stetsons contribute to a cavalry squadron's esprit de corps.
"There is an aura of a Cav Soldier," Shamsi said. "Earning your silver spurs, getting your gold spurs for going to combat, being able to wear the Stetson is a special thing because we have that heritage."
Spur Rides vary from unit to unit, but it is the only method of joining the Order of the Spur. Competitors in the 105th Cav had to demonstrate their mastery of cavalry tasks - navigating between points, radio communications, first aid, weapons and hand grenade proficiency, detecting and placing mines, avoiding and identifying boobytraps, requesting artillery fire on a target, identifying enemy vehicle types, and completing an eight-mile road march in roughly two hours. Troopers were also tested on their knowledge of the history and traditions of the cavalry.
"The spur ride really gives us an opportunity to focus on those tasks so that at the end we not only get the silver spur and esprit de corps, we get what we are supposed to do, which is proper training to standard," said 105th Cav Command Sgt. Maj. Drew Zelle.
1st Sgt. Jeffrey Kent of Troop B, 105th Cav, agreed.
"I'm a leader," he said after completing the 8.25-mile road march. "I should be able to lead my men. I want them to follow in my footsteps."
Kent already has a pair of gold spurs, which signify a combat deployment.
Sgt. Michael Fujihara, also of Troop B, said he looked forward to this event, having missed the opportunity to take part in a Spur Ride while on active duty.
"It was a lot of hard work," Fujihara said afterward. "It's a lot to accomplish, but now our mission is to make sure those who didn't earn their spurs know the standard. We'll train them up for the next one."
Those Troopers not competing for spurs were either serving as evaluators or as logistical and training support. Spurs were presented during the family day and pig roast which immediately followed the event.
"The [Spur Ride] is a long-standing tradition in the cavalry," said Sgt. Joseph Bures of Troop A, 105th Cav, a silver spur holder and an event evaluator. "It is always nice to uphold those traditions and live up to the standards that the cavalry has set in the past."
"It has been raining, thundering, storming - it has been hot, it has been cold," Zelle said. "My Troopers are wet, tired, crabby, but they have been motivated. It is something they really enjoy, even though it sucks. But at the end of that eight-mile road march everybody is going to be cheering, everyone is going to be happy and they are going to be proud of being cavalrymen - and that is what it is supposed to be. It is not an easy thing to do."
"Regardless of earning their spurs or not, everyone was highly motivated and will be very proud that they did this," Kehoe added.
Spc. Benjamin Pechacek, a silver spur holder who served as an evaluator at the weapons and hand grenade station, offered a similar assessment of this rite of passage.
"It's supposed to be tough, physically and mentally - but it can be fun, too," Pechacek said. "The Army has a standard and it holds you to it. So in the end, when you earn your spurs, you remember the pain, the dirt, the (expletive), and you can be proud."
Spc. Alexandria Hughes, 32nd Brigade Public Affairs Team, contributed to this report.