11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Guidon Passing
September 29-30, 2004
Fort Irwin, California
After a five-hour drive back home from Fort Irwin the ice-cold root
beer tasted pretty good. I
propped my feet up on my desk, took a long drink and looked back at the two
previous days spent with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and the eleven
other Blackhorse Vietnam veterans at the National Training Center in the
Mojave Desert of southern California.
We veterans were there to pass on guidons that we flew with our Troops
in Vietnam to the Troops of the current Regiment for them to fly in Iraq when
they deploy there next month. We
came from Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Texas and Utah.
We came by airplanes, cars and motorcycles. We all had one thing in common - we were proud and honored to
be the guests of the famous Blackhorse Regiment.
Although most of us arrived at Fort Irwin early on the afternoon of
September 29th, the festivities didn’t begin until 1630 with a Commander’s
Call at The Stables. I thought
this was some sort of nickname for the NCO Club, but it turned out to be the
actual stables of the 11th Cav horse detachment.
This was to be a bring-your-own-food-and-drink affair, so I loaded up
the old mermite with a case of beer and ice and headed out.
I was the first veteran to arrive, but I felt right at home with all of
the troopers wearing those subdued Blackhorse patches on the left shoulders of
their BDU’s. I didn’t have
any trouble at all striking up conversations.
Of course, the beer I handed out might have helped break the ice.
Soon, other Blackhorse Vietnam veterans arrived and the beer and war
stories started flowing. Talking
with troopers of the Regiment, we could see that they were fired up about
heading to Iraq where they could kick ass and take names.
After about an hour Colonel Peter Bayer, the
Regimental Commander, grabbed a microphone and gave the officers and senior
NCO’s a pep talk. He then had us Vietnam veterans come up front and
introduced us. He made us feel
humble and proud as he spoke about the 11th Cavalry in Vietnam and all of the
battle streamers we earned while over there.
He also honored the 768 Blackhorse troopers who paid the ultimate
sacrifice in Vietnam.
We all then adjourned to the horse arena where the 11th Cav horse
detachment put on a magnificent display of Cavalry horsemanship. They conducted several drills that included rescuing a downed
trooper, accurate use of the saber and, of course, the good old Cavalry
charge. These troopers definitely
had it together and received several thunderous rounds of applause.
CAVALRY PASS IN REVIEW
I arrived the at the Fort Irwin hotel at 0515 the next morning a little
bleary-eyed but ready for the day’s festivities. Chaplain Haworth sat down with his breakfast bar as I was
eating my bowl of cereal in the hotel lobby, and we had a good talk about the
bad old days in Vietnam as well as the upcoming guidon passing.
More Blackhorse Vietnam veterans showed up, and we all made our way
outside about 0630 to catch the first rays of the sun and watch the troopers
make their way down the road in front of the hotel on their three-mile
HERE COMES THE BLACK
A couple of vans then took us veterans over to the Regimental
Headquarters area to await the arrival of the Blackhorse troopers. The old Army tradition of “hurry up and wait” kicked in
so it gave us plenty of time to take pictures and tell more war stories.
BRAVO TROOP VETS
to Right: Roger Hill (2nd Plt. ‘66-’67), Ken Wagner (2nd Plt.
‘69-’70), John T. Tillman (‘70-’71) & Ken Jankel (2nd Plt.
Fifteen minutes later the Blackhorse troopers arrived, formed up behind
the Regimental Headquarters and caught their collective breaths. A public address system had been set up and Colonel Bayer
again took the microphone and gave us all an inspired talk about the
deployment to Iraq next month. He
then again called us Blackhorse Vietnam veterans to stand in front of the
Regiment as he honored us for our deeds in Vietnam.
Colonel Bayer then asked the troopers of the Regiment to give us a
round of applause. Just as I thought the clapping was going to end it
increased in intensity and volume along with loud cheering.
I stole a glance down the line of veterans and noticed that they were
all standing up a lot straighter. Whew
- talk about a humbling experience!
courtesy of Ken Jankel
TWELVE HUMBLED BLACKHORSE VIETNAM VETERANS
to Right: Chaplain Larry Haworth
(HHT 2/11 ‘70-’71), Roger Hill (Trp B ‘66-’67), Ken Wagner (Trp B
‘69-’70), Ken Jankel (Trp B ‘66-’67), William Bachman (Trp E
‘71-’72), Wayne LeBail (Trp A ‘67-’68), Adrian Vaaler (HHT Rgt
‘69-’70), George Suchorowski (Co. H ‘69-’70), Arnold Christensen (Air
Cav Trp ‘71-’72), John Reiterman (Trp F ‘69-’70), John T. Tillman (Trp
B ‘70-’71) & Ken Sabo (Trp E ‘71-’72)
courtesy of Ken Jankel
After giving each of us veterans a Regimental coin Colonel Bayer
dismissed all of the troopers with the exception of Troop B and Troop E who
were going to receive guidons from the Vietnam veterans.
KEN WAGNER HELPS THE BRAVO TROOP COMMANDER REMOVE THE CURRENT GUIDON
BRAVO TROOP COMMANDER ATTACHES VIETNAM GUIDON
WILLIAM BACHMAN AND KEN SABO TRADE ECHO TROOP’S
VIETNAM GUIDON FOR ECHO TROOP’S CURRENT GUIDON
courtesy of Ken Sabo
We veterans then got to spend time with the current troopers of the
Regiment. The 1st Squadron
commander presented Ken Wagner with a Squadron trophy case filled with 1st
Squadron coins to take the place of the guidon Ken presented to Bravo Troop. Ken told the members of Bravo Troop that the trophy case
would be present at the Bravo Troop table at all future 11th ACVVC reunions.
The Bravo Troop commander presented us four Bravo Troop Vietnam veterans
with troop coins and belt buckles that were inscribed with some profound words -
“Lo, I beheld a pale rider on a Blackhorse...and his name was Death.
Kill Them All” After
reading this inscription Ken Wagner said it for all of us, “Not too
politically correct, but DEFINITELY my B Troop!”
After a quick visit to the Blackhorse Museum where I managed to drop
$35.00 on 11th Cav items I headed back to Utah for a night of sleep and then
back to work.
I would like to thank the officers, NCO’s and troopers of the 11th
Armored Cavalry Regiment for two outstanding days at Fort Irwin and all the
great Cav hospitality they showed us Blackhorse Vietnam veterans.
I salute you!
Many thanks also go out to Gene Johnson of the 11th ACVVC for
coordinating these activities with the Regiment and getting everything to run
John T. Tillman
Troop B, 1970 -1971