“Longknife” Squadron exchange with Recce Squadron
By Lieutenant Andrew Tardif (42 Tp Ldr - Recce Sqn)
Having participated in a reciprocal unit exchange (RUE) with 4th Squadron “Longknife” of the 3rd US Cavalry Regiment last year, members of Recce Squadron again had the privilege of travelling to Fort Hood, Texas, for another outstanding training opportunity with our American allies. The Spur Ride is an American Cavalry tradition which assesses the warrior skills expected of a Cavalry Trooper. In December 2013, twelve Strathconas migrated south in order to represent the Regiment in the Longknife Spur Ride. The three day event culminated in a Spur Dinner and ceremony where successful candidates were presented with their silver spurs and were inducted in to the “Order of the Spur”.
The LdSH(RC) Spur Ride team began preparations on 28 October, upon returning from the field from Exercise STEELE SABRE 2013. In addition to studying the 3rd Cavalry Regiments history and traditions, the team practiced navigation, dismounted patrolling, and began an intensive physical fitness program designed by Corporal Evan Stewart. The Spur Candidates tested their battle procedure, and Trooper Adam “They Raised a Flag” Harrington developed his leadership skills by instructing bridge and ford classifications. The team also learned combat first aid, helocasting, and helicopter load drills in anticipation of tasks expected during the Spur Ride competition.
On 9 December, the team departed Canada and flew in to Houston, Texas, ready to prove themselves to their American allies. When they arrived, 1st Lieutenant Jake Kelly and the Longknife contingent were shocked to see a bunch of t-shirt clad Canadians enjoying the balmy 2ºC weather. The following day, the LdSH(RC) team was escorted around Fort Hood and visited the 3rd Cavalry Regimental museum, gaining a deeper appreciation for the important role that the cavalry tradition plays within the organisation.
The Spur Ride began early the next morning commencing with a physical fitness test followed by an air assault obstacle course. Next, the Spur Candidates were transported by Blackhawk (UH-60 Helicopter) to the training area and began the field phase of the exercise consisting of a day and night navigation to various military skill stands. The next morning, Strathconas were mixed in to three teams with their American counterparts; orders were issued and battle procedure began for the tactical portion of the event. During this phase, all soldiers were assessed on their planning and execution of dismounted reconnaissance tasks in patrol lanes which continued late into the second night. Nearing exhaustion on the morning of final day, teams were transported out of the training area to the Leadership Reaction Course. This challenge required groups to work together to exercise mind and body to overcome obstacles, while racing the clock, ending with a three mile run back to the Longknife lines. Nothing could beat the feeling of finally running across the finish line with our new Longknife brothers surrounded by a mass of cheering Spur Holders.
Despite wearing green uniforms and not conducting the warm up “in cadence,” the Canadians did not look as out of place at all by the end of the competition. The previous day’s trials forged esprit-de-corps and acceptance among our fellow Cavalrymen. At the Spur Dinner, candidates recited the Fiddlers Green, a cavalryman’s poem, and the team finally received their coveted spurs. Warrant Officer Ryan “ARE YOU HUNGOVER SIR?!” Thomas was relieved when we finally got to the part were he was given the shot of whiskey that he had been promised all week. Major Chris Nolan and Master Warrant Officer Iain Fox then presented Longknife Squadron with a Strathcona Branding Iron. Strathconas who took part in the Spur Ride 2013 were extremely proud of their accomplishments and appreciative of their friends to the south for the opportunity to participate in this unique tradition. AI-EE-YAH!