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Spc. Justin Horvath, top, gives orders to Spc. Mark Walton, of 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, who was trying to earn his spurs during a “Spur Ride” on Tuesday in Büdingen, Germany.
Spc. Justin Horvath, top, gives orders to Spc. Mark Walton, of 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, who was trying to earn his spurs during a “Spur Ride” on Tuesday in Büdingen, Germany. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
Spc. Justin Horvath, top, gives orders to Spc. Mark Walton, of 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, who was trying to earn his spurs during a “Spur Ride” on Tuesday in Büdingen, Germany.
Spc. Justin Horvath, top, gives orders to Spc. Mark Walton, of 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, who was trying to earn his spurs during a “Spur Ride” on Tuesday in Büdingen, Germany. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
Staff Sgt. Malcolm Coley, center, answers a question posed to him by Spc. Eric Bentley, right as squadron commander Lt. Col. John Peeler listens.
Staff Sgt. Malcolm Coley, center, answers a question posed to him by Spc. Eric Bentley, right as squadron commander Lt. Col. John Peeler listens. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
Staff Sgt. Malcolm Coley works his way up a hillside in a low crawl at one of the stations of the spur ride.
Staff Sgt. Malcolm Coley works his way up a hillside in a low crawl at one of the stations of the spur ride. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
Sgt. Marcus Trammell, left, and Capt. Nick Schenck, both of 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, assemble an M-240 weapon as they try to earn their cavalry spurs.
Sgt. Marcus Trammell, left, and Capt. Nick Schenck, both of 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, assemble an M-240 weapon as they try to earn their cavalry spurs. (Michael Abrams / S&S)
A weary 2nd Lt. Mark Grow rests his sore feet after completing the spur run.
A weary 2nd Lt. Mark Grow rests his sore feet after completing the spur run. (Michael Abrams / S&S)

BüDINGEN, Germany — Sporting a black Stetson and a pair of spurs, Sgt. 1st Class Phillip Wilburn peppered Spc. Mark Walton with questions and innuendoes as the young troop assembled an M-16 rifle.

“You got a casualty behind you, the enemy is at the gate and you can’t put your gun together,” Wilburn thundered as he stood over the 21-year-old, who was sprawled out on a woody hillside overlooking a picturesque German town.

Of course, there was no casualty or enemy. But that didn’t stop Wilburn and other supervisors at this location from putting the verbal screws to Walton and his battle buddy, Staff Sgt. Malcolm Coley. Their group also included Capt. Nick Schenck and Sgt. Marcus Trammell.

Tuesday marked a rite of passage for about three dozen soldiers assigned to 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment in Büdingen. After more than 30 hours of traipsing more than 20 miles across the nearby countryside performing various tests and tasks, they were nearing the end of their “Spur Ride.”

“I’m in pain,” said Coley, the squadron’s medical platoon sergeant, “but I’m going to make it.”

The Spur Ride is rooted in a tradition that harks back to the era of knights on horseback. Today’s cavalrymen ride into harm’s way aboard tanks and other armored vehicles, but the custom of awarding spurs to “mounted” soldiers who display initiative, knowledge and endurance continues, as it did Monday and Tuesday in Büdingen.

“It’s a skills-based event, but it’s based on [cavalry] skill sets,” said Lt. Col. John A. Peeler, the squadron commander for 1-1 Cav.

This Spur Ride involved several tasks that had to be performed as teams hiked with 40 to 50 pounds of gear among the nine stations that made up the course. The areas of expertise ranged from fire support and small-arms assembly to medical care and communications. At one station, soldiers had to get water, five-gallon containers of fuel and ammunition up a steep embankment.

Participants set out on their rounds well before sunrise Monday, with most getting little or no sleep heading into the final tasks early Tuesday afternoon.

Along the way, “spur holders” were there to guide and grill the candidates, many of whom were lugging rocks or some other object given to them by their sponsor. (Last year, a lieutenant had to carry an alarm clock because he showed up late.)

Soldiers vying for their spurs spoke often of the tradition associated with being in a cavalry unit.

“In a way, it’s just a piece of metal,” Sgt. Frank Plew said after he completed the grueling test, “but it’s also about prestige.”

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