The Blackhorse Association recognizes NCO and Soldier of the Year

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — On Aug. 8, the Blackhorse Association graciously gifted brown campaign hats, significant to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, to the Regiment’s Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

Spc. Alexander Byrd of the 511th Military Intelligence Company, Regimental Support Squadron was the Soldier of the Year and Staff Sgt. Brian Schrader of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron was named the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

Aaron Nelson, Regimental Liaison for the Blackhorse Association, and Ricky A. Pring, Vice President of the Blackhorse Association and the 16th Regimental Command Sergeant Major (ret.) of the 11th ACR, were present to bestow the Cav hats. Nelson was also a former UH-60 Blackhawk pilot with Stetson Troop, 4th Squadron during the Blackhorse’s deployment to Germany in support of Operation Gyroscope.

Pete C. Bayer Jr., President of the Blackhorse Association and 61st Colonel of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ret.), also relayed his congratulations in a letter that accompanied the gift.

The 11th ACR wears a brown campaign hat instead of a black Cavalry-style Stetson to pay respects to its past as a Cavalry Regiment formed during the Spanish-American War.

The campaign hat in use at the time was based on the M1883 Campaign Hat. The previously worn regulation campaign hat made of black felt was criticized for its lacking durability and tendency to absorb and retain heat when worn in sunlight. Many Troopers purchased and wore non regulation commercial alternatives instead, during the John B. Stetson Company’s rise and peak. To standardize headgear, a new light-colored campaign hat, the M1883 Campaign Hat, was specified by the Quartermaster General in 1883. Its design would be further improved with the Hat, Service, M1911, and would remain the service cap in the contiguous United States until 1941, mostly unchanged, due to its ability to protect the wearer’s face and head from the sun and elements while being relatively comfortable to wear. To acknowledge that the 11th Cavalry had yet to be born when Stetsons were worn, we instead don brown campaign hats.

The ceremony was streamed live and can still be viewed on the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment’s Facebook page at

For further information on the evolution of Cavalry hats, United States Army Headgear 1855-1902, by Edgar M. Howel and published by the Smithsonian Institute in 1975, is an excellent resource.

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