9 Must-Know Facts about the Army's 1st Cavalry Division

By Samira Hedayat

Originally riding on horseback and patrolling the Mexican border following the Mexican Border War, the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division, nicknamed the “First Team,” was activated on September 13, 1921, at Fort Bliss, Texas. Since then, the 1st Cavalry, which is made up of soldiers known as “troopers,” has played an essential role in many conflicts throughout history, including World War II, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War.

Here are some need-to-know facts about this historic Army unit:

1. The 1st Cavalry Division’s Combat Patch is as Meaningful as it is Iconic.

The patch features a silhouetted horse head, a solid diagonal black line and yellow background. The yellow background (yellow is a traditional cavalry color) and the horse’s head symbolize the division’s horseback roots. The black line (black is symbolic of iron), alludes to the unit’s transition from horses to tanks and armor.

Photo credit NATO/Kay M. Nissen

A leader from the 1st Cavalry Division places a patch onto a soldier.

2. The 1st Cavalry Division Has an Official Horse Detachment. The 1st Cavalry Division is known for its equestrian heritage. Although that skill is no longer used in battle, they have kept their Horse Cavalry Detachment (HCD) alive and trotting. Today, the HCD is used for ceremonial and recruitment purposes and preserves the division’s horseback-riding roots.

In 2014, the unique unit was made up of 39 service members, 31 horses, five mules and two dogs. The soldiers in the unit pay homage to the soldiers before them by doing what they would have done back in the day, like training and caring for the horses and mules. They also make their own saddle and boots in the unit’s leather shop, train with weapons that are exact replicas of what was formerly used and wear the uniforms worn by preceding HBC members.

3. You Can Catch the 1st Cavalry on the Big Screen.

The unit is featured in the 1986 film “Platoon,” which is an extrapolation of the veteran and film director Oliver Stone’s experiences in Vietnam while serving in the unit. The 1st Calvary is also showcased in the 1979 film “Apocalypse Now.”

4. During WWII, the 1st Cavalry Division Was the First Unit to Make it Into Manila.

Following an order by Gen. Douglas MacArthur to “go to Manila, free the prisoners at Santo Tomas, take Malacanan Palace and the legislative building,” troopers entered the Philippines’ capital and freed the internees at Santo Tomas University in February 1945. Troopers also led the charge into Tokyo in September.

Photo credit U.S. Army Signal Corps

1st Cavalry Division in Tokyo in World War II.

5. Speaking of Firsts, During the Korean War in July of 1950, the Division Was the First to Pyongyang.

During Vietnam, the 1st Cavalry was the first fully-committed division in country.

Photo credit DVIDS/Capt. Scott Kuhn

Cpl. Nathan Risner gives orders to his team during platoon situational training exercises.

6. The 1st Cavalry Has Worn Many Hats Over the Years.

It has served as a cavalry division, an infantry division, an air assault division and an armored division throughout its years of service.

7. In 1998, the 1st Cavalry Division Conducted Peace Support Operations in Bosnia-Herzegonvia.

America’s “First Team” ensured peace and stability throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina for over a year, transferring authority to the U.S. 10th Mountain Division in August 1999.

8. The 1st Cavalry Division Currently Holds Three of the Active Army’s 10 Armored Brigade Combat Teams.

The armored brigade combat team (ABCT) is the Army’s main armored force.

Photo credit DVIDS/Sgt. Derek Bannasch

Sgt. 1st Class Selcuk Yargici performs during the 2014 Spring Ho Parade in Lampasas, Texas. The band performs at functions throughout the Fort Hood area.

9. There’s a Few Songs Associated with the 1st Cavalry Division.

The tune “Garryowen” and the lively “Spirit of the Cav” are two songs most associated with the division.

-This story was first published on USO.org in 2019. It has been updated in 2021.

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