FORT SILL, Okla._The Fort Sill Artillery Half Section will get to show off in front of the entire nation on New Year's Day when they take part in the Rose Bowl Parade.
It's the first time this unit has ever been in a nationally televised event. The half section will also perform a five-minute routine in the Rose Bowl Equestfest on December 29. Fort Sill began using horses in 1963 and the half section is the last horse-drawn artillery unit in the United States.
Getting into the parade all started with a phone call. Former post commander Major General Mark McDonald saw Fort Hood's horse detachment on TV in last year's parade and called the current commanding general, Major General John Rossi, to suggest that Fort Sill's horse-drawn artillery unit submit an application. They did just that and were accepted a few months ago.
Sergeant Scott Gamble is in charge of trafficking the 11 soldiers and nine horses to Pasadena, California. He's new to the unit, having just arrived about a week ago, but says dealing with horses hasn't been that hard of an adjustment.
"In a lot of ways, they are just like soldiers. Each one of them has their own personalities, you have to deal with each one of them a certain way. Some of them you can just walk up to, others you better be talking when you walk up to them," Sgt. Gamble said.
Gamble says he will have to have all the soldiers in position to tend to the horses by 2:00 a.m. the day of the parade because it takes five hours to get them saddled up and ready before the 3-to-4 hour walk in the parade that begins at 10:00 a.m.
Gerald Stuck, the chief of the half section, says this is a first for the unit. All the soldiers are excited, but they didn't get to this point without a lot of work.
"They have to pass a riding test and a jump test, which is a cannoneer position, and then they have an agility test, which is stacking 30 bales of hay and a ton of feed," Stuck explained.