Saturday, March 1, 2008

Order Of The Spur

Certificate for induction into the Order of the Spur for combat action
Got word from Chris on Thursday and all is well at the COP. He said that things have been relatively quiet lately therefore he has had a little time to "chill". Transition is in progress and the excitement of returning home is everywhere! Everyone is counting the days. It seems that mail is a little slower than normal and he's anxious to get some more "pogie bate". When the mail finally catches up, he's going to be like a kid in a candy store.

As always, the tone of his email was very positive and he was very excited that they would be awarded their combat spurs very soon. I know Chris, Nick and Bill had talked with us when we went out to visit months before they left and I could tell then what a BIG DEAL it was. I really didn't know that much about it except that it was an honor to wear them, so I did a little research. This is what I found...

The Order of the Spur is a Cavalry tradition in the United States Army. For a cavalry Trooper (the cavalry equivalent of the word "Soldier") to join the Order of the Spur, they must pass a series of tests set by their command, known as the "Spur Ride." Once accomplished, the Trooper is awarded spurs to be worn with his or her military uniform. However, a Trooper may forgo the spur ride if they see combat with their cavalry unit. In some units, gold spurs are awarded for combat inductions while silver spurs represent having completed a spur ride. Therefore, silver spurs and gold spurs hold a similar relationship in the cavalry as the Expert Infantryman Badge and the Combat Infantryman Badge hold in the infantry.

Induction into the Order of the Spur is for life, and the status travels with the Soldier from unit to unit. There is no Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) requirement for the Order of the Spur and the order is open to members of foreign militaries serving with U.S. cavalry units.

The tradition of having to "earn your spurs" reaches back to the beginning of the cavalry. When green Troopers first arrived at their new cavalry assignments they were assigned a horse with a shaved tail. This led to the nickname "Shave Tail" for newly assigned, spur-less Soldiers. These new Troopers were in need of extensive training, especially in the area of swordsmanship from atop a horse. The horse with a shaved tail was given extra space in which to operate since its rider was marked as an amateur. During this phase of training the Troopers were not allowed to wear spurs because this would only serve to compound their problems. Only when they were able to prove their ability to perform with their horse and saber were they awarded spurs.

The Spur Ride
Aside from a wartime induction, the only means of joining the Order of the Spur is a spur ride. Similar to the tests an infantryman might undergo to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge, the spur ride is normally a two-day event where a Soldier must pass a series of tests that evaluate their navigation, shooting, first responder, physical fitness and other military skills. The tests also normally include a written portion covering cavalry history and tactics, as well as a reciting from memory the traditional cavalry poem about Fiddler's Green. Soldiers fresh to a cavalry unit are not likely to be allowed to take a spur ride until at least six months into their assignment with the unit. However, the exact standards for the spur ride are set differently by each cavalry unit.

The U.S. Department of the Army classifies the Order of the Spur as an Army tradition, so, like the Rangers' tan beret, regulations for induction into the Order of the Spur and the wear of cavalry accoutrements are set by each cavalry unit commander. Lacking any Army-wide regulations, the standards differ from unit to unit, but in essence the tradition remains the same. What follows is a sample set of regulations which are broadly upheld in all cavalry units, and the Department of the Army policy on traditions.

Wear of Cavalry Stetson and Spurs
1. Stetson: The Stetson will be black in color. Rank and regimental or ordinary cavalry brass will adorn the Stetson. The braid will be worn around the base of the Stetson. Troopers will wear the appropriate braid color. Braid ends or acorns will be to the front of the Stetson and no more than an acorn length over the brim. Crossed sabers will be placed on the front of the Stetson. Organizational sabers are authorized if assigned or affiliated to the regiment. Rank will be worn 1/8" from the bottom of the sabers, centered. [Note: Units differ regarding placement of rank versus sabers; some conventional wisdom deems that "you are Cavalry forever, but ranks change, therefore sabers should be placed above the rank"]
a. Field Grade Officer: Solid Gold
b. Company Grade Officer: Gold and Black
c. Warrant Officer:
(1)CW4,CW5 - Solid Silver
(2)WO1,CW2,CW3 - Silver and Black
d. Non-Commissioned Officer: Branch Color (e.g. Yellow for Cavalry, Red for Artillery)
(1) The nape strap will be threaded through the appropriate eyelets in the brim of the Stetson so that strap goes around the back and the buckle is fastened and centered on the wearers head.
(2) The sides of the crown shall not be pushed in or otherwise modified. The brim will be flat with a slight droop at the front.
(3) The Stetson will be worn on the head with the brim parallel to the ground.
(4) Occasions for wearing the stetson: Squadron dining-ins/outs, formal events in dress blues, gatherings of spur holders, professional gatherings such as AAAA and any other event or function as designated by Saber 6.
2. Spurs: Spurs will be worn as a matched pair. The type of spurs allowed are set by each unit but most often they are Prince of Wales style spurs.
a. Low Quarters: The spurs will be affixed to the footgear midway between the upper portion of the sole and the lower part of the heel along the seam of the shoe. The U shaped portion shall enclose the shoe in such a manner as to assure that the rowel of the spurs curves down to the ground. The strap will be fastened over the instep of the footgear in such a manner that the buckle faces to the outside of the foot.
b. Boots: The spurs will be affixed to the footgear so that the U shaped portion follows the seam of the ankle support. The strap will be fastened over the instep of the footgear in such a manner that the buckles face the outside of the boot.
c. Single Soldiers will wear the rowels of their spurs pointing up, while married Soldiers will do so with their rowels pointing down.
3. Occasions for Wear: Spurs and stetsons will be worn at all cavalry functions, otherwise, they will not be worn outside of the cavalry footprint. Stetsons and spurs may be authorized by the local command, but are not authorized for wear at Army functions not specifically dedicated to cavalry. Wear with civilian attire may be restricted by a local commander, but otherwise the spurs and Stetson may be mixed with civilian attire when rank has been removed.

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