Cross-posted from USA Today
by JACK GRUBER
BRIDGEPORT, Calif. — The men emerged over the crest of a ridge and guided their horses along a tree line, skirting a wide meadow. They picked their way along narrow trails, climbing higher into the Sierra until a panorama of snowcapped peaks and a broad green valley unfolded beneath them.
The men, Special Forces soldiers dressed in jeans and other civilian clothes, led their horses into a thick stand of pine trees, where they dismounted and let the horses drink from a clear mountain stream before breaking out their own rations.
At this remote training area high in the Sierra, the U.S. Marine Corps is reviving the horsemanship skills that were once a key part of the nation’s armed forces but were cast aside when tanks and armored vehicles replaced them. The need to bring these skills back was driven home in Afghanistan in 2001, when the first Special Forces soldiers to arrive found themselves fighting on horseback alongside tribesmen in rugged terrain without roads. Many had never ridden a horse before.
We don’t want to reinvent anything,” said Marine Capt. Seth Miller, the officer in charge of formal schools at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. “These are skills that were lost.”
Marine instructors are teaching the students, most of them Army Special Forces soldiers, how to control horses, care for them and load packs.
In a throwback to the old Wild West days, instructors are considering training soldiers in how to shoot from a moving horse.
No one is talking about bringing back the cavalry, but horses are an effective way for Special Forces and other small units to move around the battlefield, instructors said. They can travel long distances quietly and don’t require the gasoline and massive logistics trains that encumber motorized forces. Read full report, view video »
Where is the military getting these horses? The article states:
“Most of the horses used at the course are former mustangs, or wild horses, trained by inmates in the Northern Nevada Correctional Center. They are both well-rounded and cheap.”
Mules are also being used for training purposes to pack munitions and supplies.
What they intend to do with these equines when training is over is not mentioned, but it is unlikely they would be deployed. Latter day war horses and mules have been purchased from locals in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is worrying. Since they bought them cheap, we assume they will have no problem selling them cheap.
Yes, it is war. And untold sacrifices are made by many. But why shouldn’t we care about these innocents?