The cavalry still rides
Fort Huachuca's B Troop honors those who went before
The days of the old horse cavalry of the U.S. Army are generally now only seen in movies.
But on Fort Huachuca those days of the late 1800s are still alive through the all-volunteer B Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment (Memorial), honoring a unit which served on the post at various times from 1884 to 1912.
Unlike the days of old when the unit protected settlers when America’s westward expansion was at its highest a few years after the end of the Civil War, today’s mission of the small unit is to honor and remember those B Troopers — and by doing that — all cavalrymen who served the nation during the country’s westward expansion.
But to keep B Troop’s legacy alive more volunteers are needed.
Just ask the organization’s program coordinator Chris Zimmerman, who today wears the uniform and stripes as the stable sergeant, but who previous has commanded the small volunteer group.
The operative word is small, because although the unit has 15 horses — all official U.S. mounts — the group usually can only field five, at best, during events, which in effect are showing the flag, or in this case the red and white guidon of the troop.
His goal is to bring the troop up to nearly full strength, if not more.
“Fourteen troopers, that’s what we need,” he said.
But, in reality, he would like to have a few extra because not all those who are part of the volunteer organization can attend every event, so some extras to fill out the ranks will be a plus, Zimmerman said.
Many have jobs or other commitments and cannot always take part in every activity, the program coordinator said.
Because of current federal financial constraints, the troop is limited to traveling within a 100 mile radius.
In the past the group has participated in activities well beyond 100 miles, including appearing in the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl parades.
Prior to the constraints, the troop took part in up to 50 events a year but now it is expected the number will be closer to 30, Zimmerman said.
B Troop takes part in almost every fort ceremonial function and for many the end of a parade is the unit’s charge across a field — usually Brown Parade Field — as K Battery, a group of artillery volunteers, fire off a replica of an old mountain howitzer as the bugle call to charge is sounded. On Friday, three more troopers were given their spurs and now the total is up to seven, of which two are women. The group also has a ladies auxiliary and one woman was accepted into the side saddle rolls Friday.
However, Zimmerman noted “we’re not recruiting for the auxiliary at this time, we need troopers.”
Troopers receive no pay for volunteering, however, they are issued appropriate uniform items, period weapons and, of course, a horse and tack.
But Zimmerman said the troopers have to give something in return — besides taking part in on post ceremonies and some off-post gigs.
“Besides their time and guts they have to give at least 10 hours a week, broken up between morning and late afternoon to muck out the stables and groom their horse,” Zimmerman said.
However, besides the commitment, all candidates have to pass riding tests, and he noted sometimes novices are better to train in cavalry maneuvers than people who already know how to ride.
All the training, including how to handle “an unexpected dismount,” — aka falling off a horse — is based on the 1886 cavalry manual, Zimmerman said.
As for new recruits, he said what he basically is looking for is someone “who can get on a horse and stay there.”
What Zimmerman hopes for is a larger presence of troopers to better show what the cavalry days of the 1880s was like in the Old West so “when Boots and Saddles is sounded they and their horses are ready to go.”
Want to join?
B Troop, 4th Cavalry Regiment (Memorial) is seeking troopers for the all-volunteer group.
The troop’s program coordinator Chris Zimmerman says anyone who is at least 18 years old and in good physical condition can apply, adding as for an upper age limit “physical limitations will weed out those who can’t do it.”
Those who have the daring, dash and discipline for the next riding school which starts in July can call 533-2178 or go to http://www.huachuca.army.mil/pages/btroop/index.html.
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