Image Copyright: Jack Gruber/USA Today
Mechanized war totally changed the way armies moved and soldiers fought. Horses were once an essential tool for war, seeing widespread action in the trench battles of WWI and even in WWII, when the Polish army’s cavalry was cut down by the armored Nazi advance. The raw power behind tanks and armored vehicles quickly made the horse obsolete on the modern battlefield. This is all starting to change.
The special operators who formed the tip of the spear in America’s initial invasion of Iraq, just weeks after 9/11, rode horses to fight the Taliban high in the Afghan mountains. The horses proved invaluable in transporting gear and men to places unreachable by typical methods. The little horses were accustomed to the altitude and terrain, giving the special operators an immense tactical advantage in the fight.
Marine Capt. Seth Miller, the officer in charge of the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, is stressing the importance of relearning skills that were lost over time as war changed. After receiving countless requests from special forces troops who fought in the Afghan mountains, Miller took charge of training the soldiers attending the school. The horse training is relatively new to the program but the skills are highly sought after in the field.
The horses are incredibly efficient and much more cost-effective than traditional transportation options. The animals can carry several hundred pounds for more than 55 miles a day, needing little more than grass and water. The animals also have no problem operating at altitudes in excess of 10,000 feet, higher than the operational ceiling for many helicopters.
War tends to drive technology and industry. The newest products are on the cutting edge of warfighting technology. The desire for mountain horse training and this school are proof that technology is not always the answer. The Marines have stopped at nothing to reintroduce the skills lost in the evolution of war.
What do you think about service members using horses again? Do you know of other units that may benefit from horse training?
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