FORT MCCOY, Wis. — Twenty-six Soldiers with the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry Regiment, earned their silver spurs after a rigorous 36-hour test of their skills, knowledge and endurance known as the Spur Ride.
Thirty-nine Soldiers participated in the Spur Ride, which took place during the 105th Cavalry’s annual training last month. The event represents a condensed version of the extensive training new cavalry Soldiers underwent in the 19th century. Spurs would only exacerbate an untrained cavalry Soldier’s problems, and were not issued until that Soldier had proven their skills with horse and saber. Today’s cavalry Soldiers demonstrate their skills at reconnaissance — remaining out of sight while gathering information.
“In the cavalry, earning your spurs is a mark of excellence,” Lt. Col. Raymond Ripberger, 105th Cavalry commander, said during the ceremony after the Spur Ride ended.
“It’s basically a rite of passage for cavalrymen,” added Spc. Eric Rosenbrook, who spent nine years in the active duty Marine Corps and joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard last year after a 12-year break in service. “It’s a tradition — it’s a big deal.”
Maj. Chris Robbins, the squadron’s executive officer, compared the spur ride to the ordeal Soldiers endure to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge.
“There’s really two significant benefits,” Robbins explained. “The basic Army Warrior tasks and basic fundamental skills, reconnaissance and other skills that scouts need, are always beneficial to train on. They are basic skills that are not necessarily difficult to learn, but they are difficult to master — and it’s even tougher to pass the tasks when you string them together in a continuous task.”
Cavalry Soldiers rely on the same skills to fulfill their missions as Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers – serving both as the state’s first military responder during times of emergency, but also as part of the Army’s primary combat reserve.
The second benefit, Robbins said, was the esprit de corps that the event builds.
“It is tough, hard training, and it is not necessarily fun for the participants,” Robbins said. “But those men and women who complete it will have done something that not everyone can do — they will earn their silver spurs and they will have that for the rest of their careers and the rest of their life.”
Sgt. Haley Lee, a chemical specialist assigned to Bravo Troop, took part in the spur ride even though she does not have cavalry Soldier training.
“One of the hardest things I think I’ve ever done in my military career,” she said. “A lot of the tasks were things I have never seen before. This weekend was the first time I’d ever held an M9 or any kind of pistol. This is also the first time I’ve ever bled through my boots.
“Lots of learning experiences.”
Participants marched as many as 10 miles during the first day of the spur ride as teams of Soldiers navigated between nine testing stations to demonstrate their cavalry knowledge and aptitude. The second day of the spur ride included a 12-mile ruck march. Lee made it to the nine-mile mark of the march.
“I was almost there,” she said, noting that she passed all the other spur ride events. “Next year I’ll make it all the way through.”
Sgt. Michael Perleberg had already earned gold spurs when the 105th Cavalry deployed with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Iraq in 2009-10. Participating in this event was a last-minute decision, he said.
“As a full-time staffer, it’s always nice to show the troops that you can do the tasks we’re asking them to do,” he said.
Perleberg and Rosenbrook were among the cavalry Soldiers to earn their silver spurs.
“The only thing going through my mind was that I wanted this,” Rosenbrook said. “I wanted to prove to myself that I may be getting older in age, but not [too old].
“It feels wonderful,” he continued. “I tested myself — I got my spurs.”
Ripberger said beyond demonstrating the capabilities of Soldiers in the unit, the spur ride helps retention efforts.
“It’s an important event that really makes people part of the unit, part of the cavalry family,” Ripberger said.