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Training in Ukraine earns troopers their coveted spurs

By 1st Lt. Kealy Moriarty | 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard | April 9, 2019

YAVORIV, Ukraine – Over four grueling days, multinational Soldiers and civilians from the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Lithuania and Ukraine participated in the time-honored “Spur Ride.”

The “Order of the Spur” is a U.S. Cavalry tradition, which dates back to the beginning of the cavalry. Traditionally, Soldiers in a cavalry regiment were referred to as “troopers” and primarily used horses as a tool for transportation.

Historically, newly assigned troopers were not allowed to wear spurs for fear of injuring their assigned horse due to lack of experience. New Troopers were tested through extensive training until they proved their horsemanship skills and earned their spurs.

In today’s tradition, the Order of the Spur challenges Soldiers’ physical, mental and tactical abilities through a series of events in stressful conditions known as the Spur Ride. Spur candidates are examined on a series of lanes such as vehicle identification, weapons qualification, land navigation, combat lifesaving, four-mile run, five-mile ruck march, and a mystery event.

“The spur candidates must complete a series of performance steps to receive a ‘go’ in each event,” stated spur holder 1st Sgt. Eddy Burns.

Current spur holders acted as sponsors, led lanes and evaluated candidates throughout the Spur Ride.

“For me, being a sponsor is about carrying on the tradition of the cavalry – I’m very proud to be a part of that tradition where current spur holders pass on their silver spurs to the next generation of Troopers,” said spur holder and sponsor Cpt. Chris Poulopoulos.

“As a sponsor, it is my responsibility to train and prepare my candidate to successfully complete the Spur Ride – if my candidate fails, it’s because I failed him as a mentor.”

Some spur holders acted as motivators and cheered candidates on during the challenges.

“These men and women showed from start to finish that they had what it took to be there,” said spur holder Maj. Aaron Cox. “The level of teamwork, motivation and camaraderie throughout the events were truly a sight to see and I am very proud of all of them."

Of the 35 candidates who competed, 15 Soldiers from the U.S. and Lithuania along with two Ukrainian civilians completed the Spur Ride and earned the highly coveted spurs during the Order of the Spur induction ceremony.

“It was a humbling experience, which challenged me physically and mentally and I feel very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this U.S. Cavalry tradition,” said Lithuanian Maj. Sarunas Bajoras.

The Spur Ride is a meaningful cavalry tradition and is a unique experience for the Soldiers to compete in while deployed in Ukraine.

“I feel a sense of accomplishment, and I feel a sense of pride after finishing the Spur Ride,” said new spur holder Sgt. Matthew Vasquez. “It allowed me to test my strengths and strengthen my weaknesses and become an overall better Soldier.”

Soldiers in the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment from the Tennessee Army National Guard are deployed to Ukraine supporting the development of the Yavoriv Combat Training Center.