Sunday, January 22, 2012

Double Header

Photos by Troy Wilcox

Because we have such low manning we are never able to support two events in a single day. However, the planets aligned recently so that we were able to consider it. We are required to support a quarterly mass retirement ceremony for Fort Huachuca that occurs on the third Friday of every third month. The ceremony has been pared down significantly so that we are basically the main feature. They had tried moving the ceremony indoors for a while, but retirees couldn't stand the thought of having a retirement ceremony without a B Troop charge. Thus, the ceremony was moved back outdoors.

However, this month we were requested to support a promotion ceremony for one of the generals who put on his second star on the same day. The promotion ceremony was at 1300 and the retirement ceremony was at 1600. Because the ceremonies were both held at Brown Parade Field and were close enough in time, we were able to work out the logistics of supporting both. I still had my doubts about the whole affair because it required troopers to put in an eight hour day in uniform with about four hours in saddle. Not many offices can afford to let their people go that long, but it is a slow month for ceremonies and some of the troopers actually took leave to be able to support it. To my surprise, enough people signed up to ride to support both ceremonies. All but one trooper was there and we had enough people to support the cannon crew for both ceremonies also.

It takes about 40 minutes to ride to the parade field from the stables, so there wasn't enough time to ride back between ceremonies. Therefore, we set up a little camp near Huachuca Creek a couple hundred yards from the parade ground. I parked the horse trailer over there to tie up to and we brought some chairs and food so the troopers could relax between events. We were able to water the horses in the creek and let them nibble a little grass. We decided we'd trailer the horses back after the second ceremony so they wouldn't have to make a 40 minute ride back to the stables after sunset.

I was not able to ride, but provided ground support (to the extent my injured leg would permit) and was able to watch each ceremony. This gave me an opportunity to see where the horse-training challenges were. There is no way to duplicate the environment in a live ceremony, so the only way to train horses is to actually just put them through the ceremonies. Unfortunately, that sometimes results in less-then-desired performance.

We decided to put Duke (the horse that body slammed my leg a couple weeks ago) back into the fray. Lisa D, who is fearless, decided to ride him in the first ceremony to see how he would do. Duke has been in ceremonies before, but due to a gun training setback suffered a couple years ago, has not been used in a ceremony since. Duke did fairly well in the first ceremony despite a 13-gun salute to the general. Lisa D did not fire off of him during the charge, but Duke did not react to the sound of the other riders firing on either side of him. He did so well that Lisa decided to ride him in the next ceremony. Duke did not do so well the second time. He refused to stand quietly in the line and constantly backed out. Lisa kept trying to find a spot where he would stand, but he was just too nervous. He was able to execute the charge in good order (that is, he did not bolt or refuse to stop), but couldn't handle standing quietly in line after.  I eventually asked the first sergeant to dismiss Lisa and another rider back to the base camp as I was afraid he was going to dump Lisa or injure a bystander (people like to come up and pet the horses after the ceremony). The rest of the troop followed soon after.

All in all, it was a good day. B Troop is definitely the highlight of military ceremonies on Fort Huachuca and even when one of the horses acts up, it does not diminish the Troop's presence. To me, any ceremony that doesn't result in an injured horse or rider is a good one. The appreciation of the audience is just icing on the cake.


  1. I gotta say, this is one of your best posts, fantastic!

  2. Thanks Cheyenne. It isn't often I get both a good story and good pictures on the same day.