As part of the kickoff to Rodeo Heritage Week, area residents and visitors were treated to a terrific show put on by the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment in Stephenville City Park on Saturday.
The HCD is based at Ft. Hood and is one of only seven equestrian military units left in the U.S. Army, and the only full time equestrian unit.
During the middle of heavily-mechanized World War II in 1943 − hardly a “horse war” – the 1st Cavalry Division got rid of its remaining horses.
Twenty-nine years later, in 1972, the unit was reactivated, is still a part of the 1st Cavalry Division and has both men and women in the unit.
Speaking of women in the unit, Tarleton grad and Texas A&M veterinarian school alum, Captain Julie Pack − daughter of Jan and Jim Pack from our area − is the HCD veterinarian.
Asked if she rides in the demos such as the one taking place here last Saturday, she laughs and says, “No, I’m in charge of taking care of the animals. Believe me, that’s a full time job, so I’m pretty busy with that every day.”
The E-T also spoke to HCD unit members Spec 4 Fidel Sanchez and Spec 4 Nathan Kingers about the details of their service and training.
Kingers made it clear that they are actual, active duty soldiers in the U.S. Army.
“We have duties and obligations and a chain of command we answer to, just like every other soldier in the United States Army. For instance, part of our duty is mucking out stalls. But we have to do it by the book. There’s a certain way to do it and that’s how we do it,” he said.
Commenting about the nature of their training, Spec 4 Sanchez said, “We’re specifically trained for our duties and this is not our MOS [military occupational specialty].
“Some of us are artillery, medics, transportation, infantry, military police, whatever. It doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you can apply to be a part of HCD.”
Sanchez went on to explain some of the details of how each member of the 40-member unit is selected and trained:
• You don’t have to have a “cowboy” background. If you’re selected, you’ll be trained to do your job
• It’s an application process; not every soldier who applies is selected
• After selection, a soldier undergoes 30 training days of instruction and supervision and is in a Probationary Period of between 30 to 90 days
• Part of the HCD soldier’s training is formal classroom instruction, followed by a 200-question written exam that each candidate must pass
• When the test is passed, a candidate is awarded a detachment coin, his or her name is placed on the unit flag and the soldier becomes a full member of the HCD.
It should be noted that HCD was hosted in Stephenville by the 40 Something Cowgirls and according to Victoria Rowe of the group – who rode their horses in the Rodeo Heritage Parade on Saturday – they served the soldiers lunch after their demo in the park and a home-cooked dinner after their participation in the parade on Saturday.
In an interview with the E-T prior to the day’s events, Rowe said, “Our part in this is, we are hosting them. We will be serving a light lunch and after the parade later, a good sit down supper at the pavilion in the park.”
The 40 Something Cowgirls is an international organization that’s headquartered in Breckenridge. Founder Kristie Williams created the group − which has grown rapidly and now has two chapters in Australia − approximately five years ago.
Rowe said, “We just feel blessed with the honor of hosting our nation's finest, The 1st Calvary Division of Ft Hood.”
She added, “We owe the participation of the HCD in this year’s festivities largely to Travis Feltz. She figured out how we needed to do this and it’s a year-long process. You put your name on the list and maybe you are selected and maybe you’re not. We were very fortunate enough to be selected, so we all owe her a lot.”