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NEWS | Sept. 1, 2022

Red Dragons earn their spurs in Kenya

By Staff Sgt. Jeff Clements | Task Force Red Dragon

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to Bravo Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Red Dragon, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa held a Spur Ride August 20, 2022, in Manda Bay, Kenya.

Twenty-eight service members, including two members of the U.S. Air Force, were divided into four teams to participate in physically and mentally challenging events for the chance to become a spur holder.

The Spur Ride consisted of physical training events, an obstacle course, rifle and pistol live-fire, weapons familiarization and testing stations, reconnaissance and medical evacuation lanes, and a night call for fire and crew-served weapons live-fire event. During all this, spur candidates moved nearly everywhere on foot and were quizzed by spur holders on basic warrior tasks.

The Order of the Spur is a tradition that reaches back to the beginning of the U.S. Cavalry. New troopers were assigned a horse with a shaved tail to let those around know that they were just beginning their journey as a cavalryman and were not yet proficient in their skills as a horseman. Today, those service members who set out to earn their spurs are nicknamed “shave-tails,” while those conducting the event are referred to as spur holders.

“The Spur Ride is a U.S Cavalry tradition that traces its roots back hundreds of years,” said Capt. Ronnie Brown, Bravo Troop commander. “The event tests young cavalrymen physically and mentally to validate their skills as experts in their craft. In all senses, it is a rite of passage and we continue the tradition of testing U.S Cavalrymen in their quest to earn their spurs.”

The event began at 5 a.m. with an equipment showdown, to make sure each spur candidate had what they needed to complete the course. “Shave tails” dumped the contents of their rucksacks, held items above their head, and prepared for a long an extensive day in pursuit of their spurs.

One of the main focuses of the Spur Ride is teamwork. Shave-tails must stick together during these high-stress and rigorous events, finishing all activities together while under the scrutinizing gaze of the squadron spur holders. Teams are graded on their performance throughout the event.

“This is the pinnacle of being a cavalry soldier,” said Sgt. Bryan Skipworth, a spur candidate with Bravo Troop. “You want to reaffirm that you know your skills. It is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to do the spur ride in Kenya.”

The event culminated with a night crew served weapons live-fire, utilizing night vision capabilities, call for fire with infrared illuminating mortar projectiles, and firing the M320 grenade launcher with 40mm high explosive rounds. Afterward, the spur candidates ruck marched from the live-fire range back to Camp Simba where they received their spurs and enjoyed some much-earned accolades from their fellow service members.

“This was an amazing opportunity for our Troopers,” Brown said. “There are very few, if any, that can say they earned their spurs in Africa. The quality of this event is a direct reflection of the high-caliber non-commissioned officers planning the event. I could not be more proud of what the participants and cadre accomplished.”

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