“Yeah, you don’t see that every day,” one of The Old Guard Soldiers said of the entry of part of The Old Guard Caisson Platoon’s contribution to the 2014 Spirit of America shows.
Four Caisson Platoon Soldiers and three horses named Wyatt, Waylon and Willie have reservations for SOA stops later next month in Boston, Albany, N.Y., and Hershey, Pa. The excursion is not an ordinary trip. Extra care and time has been inserted into the schedule to make animal care paramount along the opening journey of 444 miles between Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and the Massachusetts capital.
For a car-load of vacationers, the D.C. to Boston drive is roughly a seven-hour affair – for the Caisson Platoon and their 47-foot trailer-truck combo, the trip will take 10 to 12 hours to clear the major metropolitan areas of Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Hartford, Conn.
“When we’re on the road, we have to stop and let the horses out,” said Spc. Joshua Archer, who is one of four Caisson Platoon Soldiers making the 2014 SOA trip. “We just can’t drive eight hours without getting them out of the trailer. About every two hours, we stop.”
Because of the frequent breaks, planning the trip is a bit of a cross between a game of checkers and chess. According to Archer, a precise route map will be assembled and will pin-point stopping areas to walk and water Wyatt, Waylon and Willie. The three horses will have all the trappings of home away from home including a ton of hay, 800 pounds of bedding and a 25-gallon, portable water tank which will be hauled northeast. Overnight accommodations have been made. For example while in Hershey, the horses are scheduled to bed down at the Hershey Police Department stables.
During the opening day of combined rehearsals, tackling the narrow streets of Boston with an oversized horse trailer is the problem the Caisson Platoon SOA staff must solve. The orchestrated map route will help Caisson Platoon negotiate Bean Town’s narrow byways to the show’s destination, TD Garden, and the horse’s quarters.
“Out of all of the three destinations, I think [Boston] will be the hardest [for maneuvering the trailer],” said Caisson Platoon Staff Sgt. Timothy Roberts. “We continuously train on the trailer and pulling and backing the trailer.”
Joining Roberts and Archer on the SOA trip will be Spc. Dustin Davis and Spc. Elliot Youngblood. Archer, Davis and Youngblood also double as riding portrayal actors – Archer’s role is as Paul Revere; Davis will mount up as a dispatch rider and Youngblood will take the saddle as a Buffalo Soldier.
While riding, Davis said training the horses to slow gallop around stage scenery and crew members has been a part of the training.
“It is a bit of a process,” Davis said of getting Wyatt, Waylon and Willie accustomed to show business. “We’re training these guys to work around these stage props. They’re getting used to it.”
Editor’s note: Each issue of the Pentagram through mid-September will feature a Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall ceremonial unit or units and how the individual battalions are preparing for the Spirit of America patriotic shows.