B Troop accepting applications
B Troop, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial) is a group on Fort Huachuca that many are familiar with because of the members’ participation in different ceremonies on and off post. However, many members of the Fort Huachuca community may not know the group’s history.
B Troop was originally created in 1973 by the garrison commander to boost community relations after the Vietnam War, said Christopher Zimmerman, program coordinator, B Troop. The group was also started to keep history and the cavalry era of the late 1800s alive on the installation that once housed the horse unit.
“Our official mission is to promote the history and the traditions of the U.S. cavalry and Fort Huachuca and military horsemanship. We represent the era of the Indian War period back in the 1880s,” Zimmerman added.
B Troop is not the only horse detachment in the Army but they are the only group that specifically represents a unit that existed at Fort Huachuca in the 1880s.
The troop’s primary job is to support military ceremonies such as change of command ceremonies, public events, parades, riding demonstrations and more.
“To me, B Troop signifies a link to the past. It’s a representation of all the rich history and traditions that occurred in this area, and with the U.S. Army,” said Pvt. Troy Wilcox, who will be taking over as B Troop commanding officer in April. Wilcox is an active duty Navy commander who has also been a member of B Troop for one year.
The group is currently looking for new horsemen and women. Riding school/membership applications are currently being accepted until Wednesday. The application package must be signed by a unit commander or other responsible party and include a letter of recommendation from somebody vouching for an applicant’s ability to represent the Army in a public event. A potential B Troop member must attend an interview at the stables where he or she will be required to get on a horse and ride to show there is no horse phobia or allergies to them, and that the applicant is physically able to get on and off a horse.
There are few restrictions on who can join B Troop. The weight limit per rider is 210 pounds due to the weight of equipment the horses have to carry. Anyone who is physically able to ride a horse can apply.
Civilian, military, active duty or retired can all join. It is best for people who work around the installation because members have to take care of their horses before and after work each day, and groom and exercise them.
“It is an absolute blast; it is more fun then I can even begin to tell somebody, but it comes with a lot of work. I would say that it is not easy getting through the class and learning how to do what these guys did every day, day in and day out. It is tough,” Wilcox added. “But I would say ‘stick with it; it’s worth it. Literally if you get bucked off, get back on and just have fun with it,’” Wilcox said.
The next school will be four months long, beginning on Jan. 26 with the final test on May 8. The course will consist of riding twice a week in the evenings.
The first phase of the school involves learning basic riding skills, part of which is bareback riding so riders can learn balance and the basic cues to give a horse with the reins and legs.
The second phase covers cavalry riding, specific cavalry skills, where the riders learn to ride in the demonstrations B Troop performs. Ladies switch off to sidesaddle training and males learn how to do a mounted charge, employ weapons while riding the horse, how to handle weapons safely and beginner intermediate riding skills.
“The toughest phase is definitely the first [one]. That is where you learn how to ride a horse, and if you get through that phase, then the rest is usually pretty easy,” Zimmerman said,
Anybody who wants an application package can contact Zimmerman at 538.2178 or Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who are accepted and graduate are required to ride with the group for at least a year, to basically pay for the riding lessons through their service to the memorial unit. Members are required to attend at least half of the practice sessions and events.
The group performs roughly 35 times a year, which are often weekend events. “The real commitment is taking care of the horses, exercising them, keeping them healthy and things like that. We provide everything [including horses, tack, uniforms and weapons], except they need a good pair of riding boots,” Zimmerman said.
“It is a real unique opportunity. I mean how many places can you go to and ride as a cavalryman,” Zimmerman stated. “It really is a fantastic experience, and we are looking for people who have the dedication and the courage to do this. There is an element of danger involved when you ride horses, particularly the way we do, and we are looking for good people to represent the Army, to accomplish the mission of improving community relations and keeping this Army heritage alive.”
“It’s a great experience. You don’t need to ride. In fact, it was a good thing I hadn’t ridden in a long time [almost 20 years] because riding as a unit and doing precision riding as opposed to … cowboy [riding] is completely different,” said Sgt. Brad Van Cleve, B Troop quartermaster, a civilian who joined the troop in early 2009.
“If you haven’t ridden before, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it is a time commitment,” said Van Cleve.” He estimates B Troop responsibilities take him around 30 hours per week.