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‘Big Red One’ color guard demonstrates cavalry skills during Wild West Festival in Hays, Kansas

By Chad L. Simon | 1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | July 14, 2017

HAYS, Kan. — The 1st Infantry Division Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard brought back the history of the cavalry Soldier who once patrolled the Great Plains in the last half of the 1800s to the present-day residents of Hays, Kansas, with a cavalry tactics demonstration during the Wild West Festival.

     The CGMCG gave the demonstration to several hundred people as part of the annual festival in the historic plains city two hours west of Fort Riley July 1. The color guard began the day by leading a parade before hoofing it over to the Fort Hays State University Rodeo Grounds for the demonstration.

     The rodeo grounds are less than a mile from the headquarters building of old Fort Hays. Soldiers easily could have used the same area for their daily training 150 years ago.

    “The demonstration we do is a scaled-down version of what they would have done in Civil War days to hone their skills and prepare themselves and their mounts (horses) for battle so they would be sound around gunfire, sabers and being in combat,” said Sgt. Kevin Quick, CGMCG announcer.

     During the days of mounted cavalry Soldiers, the Soldiers would train daily with their horses to keep the bond between rider and horse as close as possible while also keeping the horses familiar with potential military actions taken by the cavalry Soldier during combat, according to Quick.

     “It allows them to navigate through obstacles while engaging an enemy,” Quick said. “This is something they would practice so they would be ready when they went to battle. This would be the cavalrymen’s training exercise with their mounts to build that relationship with the horse.”

     According to Rob Wasinger, a self-professed history buff and the requestor of the CGMCG to attend the Wild West Festival, the cavalry Soldiers of the era saw plenty of combat action as they provided protection to railroad workers and residents in the area.

     “The purpose of the fort was to guard the railroad from the Cheyenne because it was going right through their prime buffalo grounds,” Was­inger said. “A lot of attacks happened here in Kansas in the prairie because the Cheyenne were fighting for their liveli­hood. In 1866, there was over 450 settlers killed along the Saline and Solomon River in Ellsworth County because the Cheyenne were fighting for their way of life.”

     Following the demonstration, several hundred fans were invited down to pet the horses and talk to the Soldiers.

     “I thought it was cool; I really liked it,” said Colton Lane, an 11-year-old local resident who rides horses on his family farm. “I liked the jumps.”

     Other spectators who heard the demonstration was an event at the Wild West Festival made a special trip to see it.

     “I saw it in the paper that they were going to be out here,” said demonstration attendee Carolyn States. “I saw them in the parade and I support our military 100 percent, so I definitely wanted to come out here. I admire them too for doing this. I think it is a great tribute to the cavalry and the other soldiers when this area was settled.”

     While those who see the CGMCG perform may think its members grew up on farms or ranches, Quick says several current riders had never ridden a horse until they volunteered to be on the team and made it through the month-long training.

     “I thought they did well,” States said. “I know it is not easy. Everything looks easier than it really is. I think it is fantastic. It proves what opportunities there are in the military that so many people don’t know about.”

     While some came to Hays to see the demonstration, others came to see the CGMCG leading the parade down the brick-building-lined Main Street.

     “It is why I am here today,” said Jay Pfeifer, a rancher from northeast of Hays and former 1st Inf. Div. Soldier. “I have seen them four times in my life. Every time I see them, they give me goosebumps.”

     Pfeifer placed his black ball cap with yellow “1st Infantry Division” letters and the “Big Red One” logo over his heart as the CGMCC passed him leading the parade with the American flag. Pfeifer said he was stationed at Fort Riley from 1985-86 as a combat engineer.

     Established in 1992, the CGMCG provides a link to Fort Riley’s and Kansas’ historic past. The CGMCG is made up of active-duty service members who travel to ceremonies and events across the country to portray federal Soldiers on the plains of Kansas during the Civil War era.

 

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