- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

EL PASO, Texas (AP) - The role of cavalry scouts hasn’t changed all that much since the days when they rode horses.

They may be using armored vehicles like Strykers now, but they are still usually the soldiers who are the farthest forward during a mission. They serve as the “eyes and ears” of the brigade they fall under, doing the same role they did during the Civil War and the days of the Wild West.

“The role hasn’t changed that much, but technology has,” said Lt. Col. Mark Hoovestol, commander of the 6th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. “It’s the same type of role and mission we filled during the Civil War, service on the frontiers and even throughout World War II. They did it with different equipment. The equipment will change but the mission remains the same.”

Scouts find the location of the enemy, relay that information to their higher headquarters and provide security so the rest of their brigade can maneuver.

Hoovestol’s squadron - the equivalent of an infantry battalion - has about 450 soldiers and was among the 3,400 soldiers from Fort Bliss’ 1st Brigade which recently did a monthlong rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

During the past decade-plus of war, cavalry scouts have been pressed into duty as infantry in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hoovestol told the El Paso Times (http://bit.ly/1FC0cXj).

But now is the time to get back to the basics of being scouts, he said. And that’s exactly what his squadron has been focusing on during its six-month-long train-up leading to its rotation at NTC and during its visit to NTC itself.

“Over the past two years, the Army has really gotten back into how to use a cavalry squadron and getting back into the traditional roles I described - reconnaissance and security operations,” Hoovestol said. “We are learning as we go, which is what this place is all about.”

Scouts can often make a difference between victory and defeat, Hoovestol added.

Being a cavalry scout entails being patient, smart and adaptable to change, said Capt. Dean Marshall, commander of Comanche Troop with the 6-1 Cav.

“You have to be flexible,” said Marshall, a native of Houston. “If you are not comfortable with change, this isn’t the job for you. Things change at the last minute. If you let that get you down, on top of the sleep deprivation and long hours, it will drive you crazy.”

Even when they spend an entire night out on a mission and cannot find the enemy, the failure to locate can still serve as valuable information for the brigade to use, Marshall said.

“We set the conditions for the rest of the brigade,” he said. “It’s an important job, but I would say the majority of the work is done by the infantry battalions. We just help and enable their success.”

Cavalry scouts have been playing this role since the days of the Wild West, he added.

“The job hasn’t changed all that much,” Marshall said. “Technology has changed; vehicles have changed. You have to change with the times, but our role has been important for a long time and will continue to be important.”

1st Sgt. Matthew Decker, the senior enlisted leader for Comanche Troop, said the radio serves as a cavalry scout’s “primary weapon.”

They use the radio to call in information on where the enemy is, or isn’t, to higher headquarters, said Decker from Lawrence, Kan. They also use the radio to call in for artillery, mortar and even air support if needed, he said.

Sgt. 1st Class David Pena, platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, Comanche Troop, said their job as scouts is to feed information to the squadron and brigade commanders so they can make the best possible decisions.

“We influence the commander in his decision making,” said Pena, from Grand Junction, Colo. “We have to find where the bad guys are, where we think they’re coming from. We have to feed all that back to the commander so he can maneuver the actual attack forces. We’re not really made to stand and fight. We go find the bad guys so the commander can then put effective force on them.”

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Information from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com

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