WHAT IS A CAVALRYMAN?
Original article appeared in Armor Magazine's May-June 1969 issue
Somewhere between the apple-cheeked innocence of the Combat Center and the urbane worldliness of the Sydney R&R veteran, we find a delightful creature known as a Cavalryman. Cavalrymen come in assorted shapes and conditions, mostly “out of condition”. You find them everywhere, but mostly riding through “Indian Country” on tanks, ACAVs. LOHs and Cobras. Local merchants love them; “Charlie” hates them; the 11th ACR staff tolerates them; new platoon leaders frustrate them; infantrymen ignore them; and the combat medics protect them.A Cavalryman is confusion with profanity on his tongue … experience with three Purple Hearts on his chest … imagination with a slice of C4 in his mouth … and faith with a flak jacket on his back.
A Cavalryman has the appetite of an IBM computer, the energy of a nuclear reactor, the curiosity of an old maid, the enthusiasm of a kid in an ice cream plant, the lungs of an umpire, and the shyness of a bull elephant in the mating season.
He likes women, beer, ice cream, Playboy magazine, letters from “the World”, Australia, steaks, “DEROS”, hot showers, Hong Kong, and hot chow. He isn’t much for Monsoons, RPGs, AK-47s, spit and polish, broken torsion bars, C-rations, roast beef, Kool-Aid, powdered eggs, “Charlie”, walking, or waiting in line.
No one else is so early in the chow line, or so often at the beer cooler. When you want him he’s somewhere in the AO. When you don’t, he’s hovering over your desk with 117 reasons why he should be promoted or go on a third R&R. No one else can cram into one fighting vehicle a double basic load of ammo, 10 cases of C-rations, two rolls of barbed wire, 14 shaped charges, a portable TV, one chaise lounge, three beer coolers, five cartons of cigarettes, and empty tool bag, two transistor radios, three machineguns, a rice-polishing machine, and a pet monkey.
A cavalryman is a fabulous creature. You can keep him out in the field, but you can’t keep him out of the “village”. You can frustrate his desires, but you can’t frustrate his drive. You can top his jokes, but you can’t top his combat record. He’s your conscience, your shadow, your second set of eyes, your psychiatrist, and your despair. But when the chips are down and the bullets ricochet off your track, he’s your pride and joy, your fair-haired boy; a slashing, hard-charging bundle of nerve and sheer guts.
When you return from three days of hard fighting, trudge wearily through the mud to your hooch, and finally settle down with a hot cup of coffee, he can bring tears to your eyes with those tender, sympathetic, and understanding words, “Gee, I sure am sorry about your jeep, sir, but we were just trying to beat the other tanks to the fuel point ……”.