By Mike Case

The Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, nicknamed the “Brave Rifles,” was originally formed in 1846 to provide security for travelers on the Oregon Trail. Since then, the 3rd Cavalry has served in a wide variety of conflicts, from the Mexican-American War to Operation Inherent Resolve.

In honor of its 173rd anniversary on May 19, here are some need-to-know facts about this historic unit, which is currently based out of Fort Hood, Texas:

In 1951, the unit, which was stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, at the time, provided some of the equipment and vehicles used to film the Army scenes in the classic sci-fi movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still”.

Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry also played extras in the film and, if you look closely at one of the Chaffee tanks, you can even see the unit’s insignia.

2. An astonishing 23 of the unit’s troopers have been recipients of the Medal of Honor, including the legendary William “Buffalo Bill” Cody.

In addition to being a buffalo hunter and Pony Express rider (among other claims to fame), Cody was an Army scout for the 3rd Cavalry. In 1872, he received the Medal of Honor, but posthumously had the honor revoked, and later re-instated due to various technicalities.

Photo credit USO Archives

Gen. George S. Patton with Bob Hope and Frances Langford in 1943.

3. The 3rd Cavalry has had several famous commanders, including Martin Dempsey, Jonathan Wainwright and George S. Patton.
4. When World War II began, the 3rd Cavalry was still mounted on horses.

The unit traded its horses for armored vehicles on Feb 21, 1942.

5. The regiment’s motto “Blood and Steel” and its nickname “Brave Rifles” derive from an accolade given to the regiment during the Mexican-American War by General Winfield Scott.

Scott said, “Brave Rifles! Veterans! You have been baptized in fire and blood and have come out steel!”

Photo credit DIVIDS/Army Capt. Jason Welch

A service member awards gold combat spurs to a trooper during an award and gold spur ceremony.

6. All Calvary soldiers, including those in the 3rd Calvary, are traditionally referred to as “troopers” and are permitted to wear the traditional black Stetson hat.

Troopers are also permitted to wear spurs upon being inducted into the “Order of the Spur” for serving with the unit in combat or completing the challenge of a “Spur Ride

7. The 3rd Cavalry was the first military unit to cross the Alps since Hannibal in 215 BC.
8. After World War I, the 3rd Cavalry provided the ceremonial escort for the internment of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery on November 11, 1921.

Today, the tomb is guarded by members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.

Photo credit DIVIDS/John A. Mattias

Lt. Col. David M. Rozelle (center) runs alongside his soldiers during a division run.

9. In 2005 Army Lt. Col. David Rozelle, then a captain, who was serving in the 3rd Cavalry, became the military’s first amputee to head back to a combat zone.

He later went on to serve two more tours in Iraq, compete in an Ironman, write a book and become a college professor, among other achievements. Rozelle is still currently serving as an active duty soldier in the Army.

Depiction of 3rd U.S. Cavalry Sgt. John Lannen by Frederick Remington in Cuba in 1898. | Photo credit Frederic Remington Art Museum/Public Domain

10. In 1898, the artist Frederic Remington, famous for his art depicting scenes of the Old West, paid a visit to the 3rd Calvary Regiment.

During his time with the unit, Remington sketched a trooper, Sgt. John Lannen, while he was mounted on his horse. This sketch eventually became the portrait of a cavalry trooper known as “Old Bill,” which came to epitomize Calvary operations in the Army.

11. During the U.S.-Mexico war, a 3rd Cavalry officer temporarily led a group of Marines in combat.

In 1847, during the Battle of Chapultepec, Army Lt. Robert Morris who was charged with gaining control of a fortress, led a group of Marines, who had begun to falter when their officers had fallen, successfully to the top of the hill where the fortress was located.

Sr. Content Marketing Manager Sandi Gohn contributed to this report.