Six-hour test of their soldierly skills gives spouses a taste of life in the 1/4 Cavalry
SCHWEINFURT, Germany — When Staff Sgt. Clifford Jackson of the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment gets home from Iraq next spring, he won’t be the only one in the family sporting spurs on his boots.
His wife, Amy, was one of 144 Schweinfurt-based spouses who spent weeks boning up on soldier skills before Saturday’s Ladies Spur Ride, a six-hour event that certified them as dyed-in-the-wool cavalry troops.
“I thought it would be cool for my husband to see [me] try to do what my husband does,” said Amy Jackson, 28.
On a chilly, blustery afternoon, 18 teams of eight women hurled mock grenades, fired paint guns, fought cyberwarriors in a combat simulator with M-16 rifles, ran a rucksack relay and paraded in formation before soldier-judges from the 1/4 Cavalry’s rear detachment.
They looked every bit the part of warriors, dressed in green battle dress uniforms and faces smeared with camouflage paint.
“If this was for real,” said Christa Pettibone, a member of the Homefront Honeys team from 1/4 Cavalry’s Troop A, “you would really have to know your stuff.”
The eight Homefront Honeys drew praise from the judges for their precision marching from event to event in formation while shouting out perfect cadences. They were colorful, too; each with a camouflage-colored heart on one cheek and her husband’s name in greasepaint on her chin.
“We’re the most entertaining [team],” said Julie Murray, 23, another Troop A wife.
June Chevallier — a former Army reservist and Texas state trooper who is married to the 1/4 Cavalry commander, Lt. Col. James Chevallier — had always wanted to try a spur ride for spouses. She thought the project would help keep wives busy during the first months of the unit’s Iraq tour, which began in February. It has been a difficult spring: 14 troops from Schweinfurt have been killed in action, and two from 1/4 Cavalry.
“It’s going to give them the confidence and the will to get through the deployment,” said June Chevallier, who led a team. “It’s given us something to focus on.”
Other Schweinfurt-based infantry, armor and support units also fielded teams. The rear detachment troops taught the women how to march, fire weapons and toss mock grenades during evening and weekend practices. Sgt. Michael Petty, a 1/4 Cavalry spokesman and instructor, said the Ladies Spur Ride is a scaled-down version of the same test their husbands go through.
“That way, they can have a little more in common — relate on a different level, Petty said.
“It’s a lot harder than it seems,” said Sadie McCurry, 28, whose husband is in the unit’s headquarters troop. “It gives you a new appreciation for what they go through.”
At the end of the test, the 144 new cavalry troops wiped off their face paint, got together for a banquet, and were handed their spurs — another cavalry tradition.
News of the spur ride has filtered to the soldiers downrange, who already are clamoring for digital photos and videos.
“Our husbands,” Pettibone said with a laugh, “are so excited to see us humiliate ourselves on camera.”