In 1776, George Washington put together a force of 3,000 soldiers on horseback, his response to the British 17th Light Dragoons. These men were America’s first cavalry division. The cavalry still exists today as a mechanized division with the US Army in the Armor Division. Their role is reconnaissance, security and assault. I had a chance to speak with one anonymous trooper about life in the Cavalry and what most of us probably don’t know about them. Here’s what he had to say.
They Don’t Ride Horses
While it’s true the Cavalry was a mounted division originally, the horses were retired in 1942 when it became obvious trucks and tanks could run faster and were better at taking a bullet. The name stuck and their insignias still bear a horse head logo, however.
They Don’t Mess Around
Average basic training takes 9 weeks. Cavalry train 14 weeks and by their 5th week they’re learning how to us an MK19. What’s an MK19? Imagine if Charlton Heston and every character Clint Eastwood played in the 70s and 80s were fused together like the Fly and then forced to design the most perfectly insane gun anyone had ever imagined – a 40mm belt fed automatic grenade launcher that fires 375 assploding rounds per minute because bullets are for common men, and 6 grenades flying into your face ever single second is just crazy enough to work.
The Job Gets Into Your Head
Our contact served as a gunner in the Middle East and spent a lot of time using infrared optics. So much time, in fact, he began dreaming in infrared. The most awesome thing about infrared? “You can see farts. It’s amazing.”
Now we may just be speculating here, but imagine if you’re in the middle of a war zone and it’s your penchant for burritos that gives away your position and gets you shot. Wouldn’t that be embarrassing? It would be, if you were alive to be embarrassed. But you’re not. Your fart gave you away.
They Have Grog
The Cavalry make traditional grog in a not so traditional way. “Grog is crafted in a giant tub out of whatever liquor people brought mixed with molasses. What always ends up getting created is a potion that tastes like everything, nothing, Christmas, and a very hateful divorce. This stuff will slaughter your liver with the kind of vitriol only holy warriors summon when faced down with pure…evil.”
Grog production is a time honored tradition and being able to drink it is the sign of a true cavalryman. Legend has it that, way back when, troopers would pass around whatever drinks they had so that all their brothers would have a drink, and it grew from there into the punch bowl of doom that it is today.
You Earn Your Spurs
Cavalry have two sets of spurs – gold and silver. You earn your gold after coming back from your first deployment, but silver is another matter. To earn your silver, you have to do The Spur Ride.
On a Spur Ride, rank is meaningless. A Private First Class with spurs owns a captain during this event, and the spurless will do what they are told no matter what. Consider it the brutal military equivalent of pledging a fraternity – whatever the brothers say goes, and your body will pay the price.
Every Spur Ride is different, up to the discretion of those creating it, but you can count on it to be physically demanding beyond reason. Maybe you’ll run 12 miles and have to stop along the way to perform tasks like assembling a 240lb machine gun. In the dark. In under three minutes. From a pile of parts that don’t all go to the gun. Maybe later you do 30 pushups with another trooper standing on your back, then call in a medical evacuation from memory on a disassembled radio you had to repair in two minutes before running a mile and back to retrieve a flag for a fellow trooper who, instead of accepting it, will attack you in hand to hand combat to test your abilities under pressure.
The Spur Ride is designed to test a trooper’s mettle, to determine leadership skills, technical and tactical proficiency. In layman’s terms, it’s showing what kind of balls you have. All who have earned the silver spurs agree, it’s painful and you will think about quitting at least once.
Is the US Cavalry pretty bad ass? You bet they are. Are you more bad ass? Equally bad ass? Have been adjacent to this level of bad assery? If you’ve served in the military or law enforcement and think Break’s audience would be blown away by the secret details of your job, why not hunt down Ian Fortey on Twitter and let him know, maybe you’ll be an article!