by Nel Lampe
Forty-five years ago, Fort Carson’s honor guard was in its early stages.
An Army civilian worker, Hugh Trabandt, the post stable manager, thought it would be a good idea to have a mounted color guard.
Trabandt had experience with horses while he was in an Army uniform during the Korean War period. His last assignment was as a member of the Horse Platoon with the 287th Military Police Company in Berlin, from 1954-1956.
While patrolling the border between East and West Germany, Trabandt found that horses made good ambassadors.
“Everybody loves a horse,” he said.
In 1965, Trabandt began trying to sell his mounted color guard idea, making a pitch to anyone he thought might become interested. Finally, he was able to win the support of Lt. Col. Ernest S. Ferguson, commander of the 4th Squadron, 12th Cavalry (Mechanized), 5th Infantry Division, then at Fort Carson.
Trabandt had the horses – the post stable had about 30 horses that belonged to the Central Post Fund, the equivalent of today’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. “(Lt. Col.) Ferguson furnished the troops,” he said.
There was no budget, so Trabandt had to come up with uniforms for the mounted troops to wear. He used dress blue uniform coats, unfolding the front lapels to resemble a post Civil War tunic.
“We contacted every thrift shop on every Army post in the nation, looking for Army dress blues.” Trabandt said. Family members sewed yellow stripes on the tunics and light colored blue jeans. Soldiers provided their own cowboy-style hats. The riders wore canvas puttees, sort of like gaiters skiers wear, that had been dyed black, giving the illusion that riders were wearing boots.
“We used old mule tack equipment that was still laying around – spurs, bits, saddles and other stuff we found at the surplus stores,” Trabandt said.
“All the riders were volunteers and all Soldiers, except for me,” Trabandt said. “We practiced in the mornings, and the Soldiers went to their regular jobs in the afternoon.”
Finally, the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard was ready, making its first appearance on Fort Carson at a retreat ceremony in July 1965. Ten horses and riders paraded in front of the 5th Inf. Div. Headquarters.
Maj. Gen. Autrey Marroun, commanding general of the 5th Inf. Div., inspected the troops.
During that era, “we had a horse blanket with two stars on it. Gen. Marroun would make his inspection rides riding a big white horse we had,” said Trabandt.
There also was a black carriage, pulled by four matched black horse used for reviewing troops at parades, Trabandt said. The carriage had a black bar for the reviewing party to hold onto while reviewing troops while standing.
In the mid-sixties the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard participated in retirements, parades, retreats, change of command ceremonies, rodeos, the state fair, a governor’s conference and the like.
“The hard part was cobbling together the vehicles to get the color guard to the places we needed to be,” he said.
Today, the post’s mounted color guard continues to perform at rodeos, parades, changes of command, posting the colors, activation ceremonies, retirements and other special ceremonies.
“Last year the mounted color guard participated in the Kit Carson’s 200th birthday parade in Taos, N.M., said Sgt. 1st Class Stephen C. Roy, noncommissioned officer in charge of the mounted color guard.
Thus far this year, the mounted color guard has participated in about 290 events, from San Angelo, Texas, to Utah and Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming, traveling about 5,000 miles.
Roy was assigned to the mounted color guard in the fall of 2008. When he arrived, he said the buildings needed work, uniforms were in bad shape and the Soldiers needed leadership. And there was no money.
“Support from organizations and individuals kept the color guard afloat – the Range Riders organization and other members, Preacher Paul Scholtz, from south of Pueblo and Ted Severin, did a lot. Sometimes they’d pass a hat and collect a few hundred and have hay or grain delivered,” Roy said.
Since its arrival, 4th Infantry Division has been very supportive, Roy said.
“We invite them down to see what is going on, to live the day with us,” Roy said. “They (command) came down here – when we’re having a training clinic or vaccinations, they come see what we’ve got. They see what’s going on, see where the problems are.
“You have to tell the Soldiers, even those trying out, what the ups and downs are; tell them the challenges,” he said. “But 99.9 percent of what makes it successful is because of those Soldiers – it’s the Soldiers having pride.”
Trabant said, “There is so much rich history (in the color guard) of what the Army is about. The way (the members of the color guard) carry yourself, present yourself.”
Roy said that everybody knows who’s on the color guard. “The first time you act up – guess who gets the call?
“It’s my responsibility to represent the CG, and all the members of the guard. It’s all about pride.”
The color guard’s Soldiers have to be concerned about appearance, sharpness and military bearing. They have to maintain their skills in accordance with Army regulations, stay in shape, be deployable and ready to go at a moment’s notice, Roy said.
The Army had an outpost in Colorado, historically part of the 3rd Cavalry, Roy said, so the 4th infantry Division and Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard reflects that time period. The members wear reproduction uniforms from the late Indian Wars, the 1875-1885 era.
Members carry a light cavalry enlisted sabre. The pistols are long 45s. Their Springfield long rifles were used about 1870-74, and are .45-caliber/70 grain. All the weapons are reproductions. The saddles are 1904 reproduction McClellan saddles.
At present, all Soldier positions in the honor guard are filled, but Roy expects to have some vacancies early next year and will be recruiting in the spring.
And where is Hugh Trabant? He left the post stables in 1969, but is still involved with horses. He owns the Broadmoor Stables, stables in Arizona and has ranching interests. He stays in touch with the mounted color guard he stood up, occasionally riding with the group.