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Trails Found: Training SOF to Operate on Horseback

The last recorded cavalry charge made by US Army personnel assigned to a formal Cavalry in combat was led by Lt. Ed Ramsey of Troop G, 26th US Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts) in January, 1942. The final recorded cavalry action, according to most history books, involved mounted troops of the Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop of the 10th Mountain Division in Europe, three years later.

Those were the last ones unless you count the mounted SOF troops in Afghanistan in 2001, however (remember ODAs 595 and 534?), and the ones conducting FID operations from horseback in unfriendly places now. Just last month saw the dedication of the "Horse Soldier" monument, more properly called the De Oppresso Liber, America's Response Monument. Sited in New York City's Liberty Park, overlooking One World Trade Center, the 16 foot bronze statue honors those and other soldiers of TF Dagger, many of whom were thrust unprepared into their role as mounted troops by necessity.

De-Oppresso-Liber-FrontPageMag The 'De Oppresso Liber' Monument, courtesy FrontPageMag.com.

There are other mounted units that have been active more recently than WWII -- elements like the 30th Security Forces Squadron, Vandenberg AFB, 314th SFS, 24th SPS, the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, the percherons of various caisson units and others, but they require different training than an SF team in the mountains of Afghanistan. SOF personnel operating on horseback require a background in more than just equitation. They need to understand equine logistics, gear handling, basic veterinary skills, even horse selection if there are no other knowledgeable personnel nearby.

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Where do such SOF personnel go to train up for a mission conducted on horseback? One place is the USMC's Mountain Warfare Training Center, but another, and perhaps the most remarkable, is Trails Found. Trails Found is the small, unassuming training organization founded and run by Jim Grasky, a former USBP agent, one of the founders of BORTAC and a Vietnam War era Special Forces veteran who spent much of his youth chasing Che Guevara. A storied and accomplished tracker, experienced farrier and superb horseman, Grasky (now drawing close to 80) quietly continues to train DoD SOF personnel in the backcountry of Arizona.

Most of his students could be his great grand-children.

Jim Grasky has been tracking and teaching horse handling for decades. Not surprisingly he is an adept mounted tracker an a savvy small unit tactician, including mounted operations. He  was a Demo/Combat Engineer soldier with the 8th Special Forces Group when there still was one, a smokejumper and then smokejumper squadleader in Montana, before going on to become what some younger USBP agents have referred to as a "...legendary agent of the old Border Breed."

Just a couple weeks ago several writers, photographers and videographers rallied in the Dragoon Mountains of Arizona to train with Grasky and Trails Found. Kit Up! will be getting some of pearls of wisdom from Grasky, and the contributors' reviews. Of particular interest might be not just how different sorts of apparel and equipment hold up in that environment, but how it performs during many miles and hours on horseback.

Equipment and firearm manufacturers represented there on the ground were some names Kit Up! readers will recognize, e.g. companies such as Sig Electro Optics, Crye Precision, Tactical Distributors, Kestrel, Radical Firearms, Lowa, Magpul, Tactical Distributors and Leupold. There also some you might not expect, like Noble Outfitters, Stetson, North American Arms, Chiappa, Lander, and Re-Fuel.

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Watch for #trailsfound16 in your social media feed for additional details and ongoing imagery from the event.

More to follow.

 

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