After the Civil War, the U.S. Army in 1866 recast its myriad of legacy light cavalry and dragoon-type mounted rifle units into ten U.S. Cavalry Regiments, numbered 1-10. Of course, these included such historic units as the circa 1833 1st Dragoons, the 1836-dated 2nd Dragoons, the 3rd “Brave Rifles,” and the new Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cav. It was these ten regiments that held the line in the Old West, scattered in isolated detachments across the sparsely settled territories, only coming together in larger units for the assorted campaigns of the Plains Wars.
The first new mounted regiment formed after the big 1866 reorganization wasn’t until the 20th Century when the 11th Cavalry was constituted on 2 February 1901 and organized on 11 March 1901 at Fort Myer, soon thereafter leaving to fight insurgents in the Philippines.
Led by its regimental band and mascot, the 11th U.S. Cavalry is shown passing in review on the parade ground of Fort Des Moines, in the summer of 1904. The unit is barely three years old in this image and had just returned from fighting overseas in the Philipines. Via Mike Brubaker.
Going on to serve in the Villa Expedition, they spent the Great War on the Mexican border– just in case– but, after hanging up their horses in 1942 became a mechanized unit and haven’t looked back.
Fighting their way across Northwest Europe in 1944-45, they remained stationed in Germany (while vacationing in Vietnam from time to time) as the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment until 1993, waiting as a speedbump in the Fulda Gap for a Third World War that, gratefully, never kicked off. Since then, they have been the OPFOR at Fort Irwin.
The regiment this week celebrated their 120th.
The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center has a lot of vehicles that look more Moscow than Motown.
Since 1994, the 11th ACR’s task at the NTC is to serve as the armored opposing force, the home team at the sprawling 996 sq. mile Mojave Desert base where they regularly engage active and reserve mechanized and armor units in war games. In a tradition going back to the 1980s, the OPFOR uses a series of what are termed “surrogate vehicles,” visually modified Humvees, M113 armored personnel carriers, and others, which provide a different silhouette, closer to former Warsaw Pact BMP-1 vehicles and T-72 tanks, for visiting units to look for and fight against.
Deep down inside, there is a Humvee under there. (Photos: Sgt. David Edge and Pfc. Austin Anyzeski/U.S. Army)
Oddball would fit right in. “Well, yeah, man, you see, like, all the tanks we come up against are bigger and better than ours, so all we can hope to do is, like, scare ’em away, y’know. This gun is an ordinary 76mm but we add this piece of pipe onto it, and the Krauts think, like, maybe it’s a 90mm. We got our own ammunition, it’s filled with paint. When we fire it, it makes… pretty pictures. Scares the hell outta people!”
These started life as M113s. In the 1980s, the NTC OPFOR used M551 Sheridans, but they were replaced by 2004 with the cheaper and more prolific M113.
More in my column at Guns.com