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There's no difference between armor officers and cavalry officers. They are in a sense the same. Armor officers have a unique opportunity to serve in both heavy tank battalions as well as various cavalry organizations throughout their military career. Although the missions differ throughout the many organizations, there is no better unit than another. Armor branch discourages repeat assignments to the same type of organization.

The history of Armor and Cavalry is intertwined with the history of America. From 1776, when General Washington recommended the establishment of one or more mounted units in the Continental Army, the history of the mounted branch traveled on with that of the nation.

Although cavalry is not a branch, yellow is used as a branch color for personnel assigned to cavalry units. In March 1855, two regiments of cavalry were created and their trimmings were to be "yellow." In 1861, the designation of dragoon and mounted rifleman disappeared, all becoming cavalry with "yellow" as their color. Yellow was continued as the color for cavalry units subsequent to abolishment as a branch. Although the regimental flags for cavalry units are yellow, the troop guidons are red and white without an insignia on the guidon.

In March 1833, the First Regiment of Dragoons was formed. In every war since, cavalry or armor has played its vital role. Mexico - when cavalry led Scott's and Taylor's armies, and culminated the war with the capture of Chapultpec Castle. The Civil War - when cavalry of blue and grey struggled through bitter years. The Indian Wars - when cavalry fought to protect what was gained and expanded our horizons. The Spanish-American War - when cavalry rode to victory in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Mexico again - when the cavalry pursued Pancho Villa during the Punitive Expedition.

In the Army Organization Act of 1950 armor was named one of the basic branches, and specified as a continuation of cavalry. Between Korea and Vietnam, a new doctrine came into being, air cavalry and attack helicopters came into their own. New days, new doctrine. Armor advanced with the times. Combined Arms was the theme, with infantry, artillery, and aviation working together with the Combat Arm of Decision. Operation Desert Storm - when this potent mix of force and doctrine overwhelmed Iraq.

The heritage began in cavalry - it continues in armor. The spirit of the attack, armor shock and firepower, the will to fight, to close rapidly with the enemy - these are today and tomorrow the hallmarks of armor.

Cavalry History

At the time of the American Revolution, the term cavalry was applied to that branch of the military service whose members served and fought on horseback; the word horse was used about as often and meant essentially the same thing. By the eighteenth century specialization had developed sufficiently in cavalry to bring forth three distinctive types of mounted commands, varying in mission, armament, and weight of horses: the heavy cavalry, used primarily for shock effect in battle; the light cavalry, designed for reconnaissance, screening missions, and messenger service; and the dragoons, trained to fight both on foot and on horse. In actual practice, these distinctions were far from precise, and they tended to decrease in importance in the nineteenth century. In North America, the traditional cavalryman has ever been the light dragoon- a soldier trained and equipped to fight mounted or dismounted, to perform screening and reconnaissance, and to act as a scout or messenger. True heavy and true light horse have been rare.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, the military leaders of the day neither valued nor understood the potential of the horse regiments. Although the cavalrymen on the western Plains had learned through experience that the continuous, long-range fire of the new breechloading rifles had destroyed the effectiveness of the saber charge against infantry, generals in Washington clung to that precept for the employment of cavalry. They did not visualize the effective employment of cavalry in broken, wooded areas. Believing that the war would be short, and noting the cost of arming, equipping, and training a mounted force, they agreed that the new improved firearms carried by the less expensive infantry rendered a more mobile force unnecessary.

The Confederate leaders seemed from the beginning to appraise cavalry and its functions at their true value. For the first two years of the war the Confederate cavalry was a strong, well-organized force, proving its efficiency on many occasions. Instead of being wasted in detail, the Confederate cavalry regiments and battalions, which had the same organization as those of the Union, were grouped into large forces capable of independent action and permitted to perform it. The Confederate cavalry was the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of the cavalry raid, a distinct product of the American Civil War.

It was not until 1863 that the Union cavalry made more than an indifferent showing. By then, as the war entered what Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman called its professional stage, the Union cavalry had gained the experience, organization, weapons, and remount service it needed, and from that time on its superiority grew steadily. In April 1864. Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, assumed command of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He believed that the functions of a large body of cavalry attached to an active army were not limited to guarding wagon trains or serving as advance guards or flankers for infantry columns. He demanded the right to use the Corps independently, and proved that a large force of cavalry, properly organized and led and acting as a unit, could be successful against either cavalry or infantry.

Among the peacetime problems the Army helped to solve, those occurring in the Great Plains and the Far West most needed the services of the mounted arm. By 1868 the bulk of the cavalry was in the west. The US cavalry did not fight against a formally organized foe during the period of 1866-91, but doctrine and drill did evolve for use should such an enemy appear. The foundation of all the rules was the basic thought that cavalrymen must be drilled as infantry and must at all times be prepared to fight on foot.

The First United States Volunteer Cavalry, took part in the War with Spain in 1898. This regiment, better known as the "Rough Riders," had as its leaders Col. Leonard Wood and Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt. When organized in May 1898, the First United States Volunteer Cavalry mustered 47 officers and 994 enlisted men. It served dismounted in Cuba from 22 June until 8 August 1898 and was disbanded 15 September of the same year.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:35:07 ZULU