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Meet the First ‘Space Cowboys’: 3 Guardians Complete Arduous Army Cavalry Spur Ride

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After being covered in dust, sweat, dirt and blood, three officers emerged from the West Texas desert last week and were given their spurs and Stetson cowboy hats by the Army, becoming the first ever “space cowboys.”

The three Space Force Guardians traveled to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, to complete an Army Cavalry Spur Ride, a series of arduous combat tests and physical training exercises in which service members often ruck-march in between challenges — the first members of the military’s newest and smallest service to do so.

Space Force Capt. Bradley Evans, an engineer at White Sands Missile Range who took part in the Spur Ride, told Military.com that all of the Guardians who participated completed the challenges, though some Army soldiers didn’t make it through.

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“Being in the Space Force, we certainly received a lot more attention from the cadre than some of the soldiers did, which made it quite a good challenge for us,” Evans said. “I think there was an expectation by some that we wouldn’t make it, and so pushing back against that expectation and performing was a powerful driver.”

Earning your spurs is a long-standing tradition that dates back to the early days of the Army cavalry when new soldiers had to prove their skills in swordsmanship and horseback riding. Even though the U.S. military is changing, including the addition of the Space Force and its Guardians, those traditions are still upheld through rigorous physical challenges and training.

Guardians are often deployed in place, meaning they’re at military installations in front of a computer and not typically put into austere and deadly conditions. As a result, the service has placed a different focus on routine physical training. It has announced plans to use wearable fitness technology and take a more holistic approach to keeping its service members in shape, compared to the other branches.

All of the Space Force officers who participated in the Spur Ride, including 1st Lt. Jordan Savage, an acquisitions officer at Space Systems Command in Los Angeles, told Military.com that the physical challenge was vastly different from their day jobs.

“My Garmin captured us doing about 37 miles of rucking. We had a 60-pound ruck that we were with the whole time that had all of our gear that was necessary for the Spur Ride and, on top of that, we had minimal sleep,” Savage said. “So, all those things are not what we experienced in our day-to-day life as acquisitions [officers] or engineers here.”

U.S. Space Force Spur Ride candidate Capt. Bradley Evans carries a 120mm mortar round at Fort Bliss, Texas, Apr 29, 2024. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. David Poleski)

Some of the Army soldiers who participated in the Spur Ride had never met someone in the Space Force before and quickly recognized cultural differences between the service branches.

“So many soldiers had questions, because the Space Force is still so new, and they just want to know, ‘Hey, what do you guys do?'” 1st Lt. Jackson Jennings, a Space Force developmental engineer, told Military.com. “So, I tell them about my day-to-day life, and they’re just kind of dumbfounded that we don’t have mandatory PT three times a week or we have to form up and stuff like that.”

Their presence also led to some extra attention during the challenges, with many soldiers reportedly calling them “space cowboys” as they rucked from one painful activity to the next.

“Let’s just say they showed us some extra love for being space cowboys,” Savage said.

Participating in, and completing, the Army Cavalry Spur Ride marks the latest frontier that the Space Force’s men and women have conquered.

Last month, two Space Force Guardians became the first in the service to graduate from the Army’s Drill Instructor Academy at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

Last year, Space Force Guardian Capt. Dan Reynolds graduated from Ranger School — a two-month course filled with grueling physical training and exercises designed to educate participants on elite squad and platoon tactics. The achievement not only was a first for the service, it bucked criticism and stereotypes that Guardians aren’t as active as other military service branches.

The three Space Force Guardians who participated in the Spur Ride told Military.com that they hope their peers will look for other opportunities to train with the other branches and push themselves.

“I would say, whether it’s this challenge or other challenges out there, there’s a great need for Guardians to push themselves, particularly in the physical aspect,” Evans told Military.com. “It’s not only just generally healthy, but doing this event is going to help me in my regular job when I’m just pushing forward and trying to get something done. … Something about rucking 30 miles, and just thinking one more step, applies very well to being on a 12-hour shift.”

Related: 2 Space Force Guardians Become Service’s First Graduates of Army’s Drill Instructor Academy

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