Airman marches, low-crawls and sweats her way into history: Part one

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. R. Michael Longoria
  • 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force - Iraq Public Affairs
A Brooklyn, N.Y., native was the first female Airman to complete the Army's 18-hour Spur Ride.

Senior Airman Courtney Beard joined the "Order of the Spur" after completing a series of physical and mental tests held by the III Corps, Task Force Phantom, on Victory Base Complex, Iraq.

"There were countless people who dropped out, but I made it through all 18 hours," said Airman Beard, an intelligence analyst with the 467th Expeditionary Intelligence Squadron here. "This is an accomplishment that I will remember for many years to come."

The Order of the Spur is a Cavalry tradition within the Army, but the order is open to any service member who serves with U.S. Cavalry units. Upon successful completion of the Spur Ride, new spur holders are welcomed with a formal induction ceremony.

In addition to the Spur Ride certificate, Airmen Beard was also presented a III Corps belt buckle by U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy P. Livengood, of the III Corps Special Troops Battalion.

"Airman Beard embodied the warrior spirit and displayed the drive and desire to not only push her teammates, but also had the resolve to continue at a point where she believed she had no more to give herself," said 1st Sgt. Brian McCutcheon, United States Forces - Iraq, A Company first sergeant.

Airman Beard explained the hardest part was staying motivated until the end and nothing about the Spur Ride was easy.

"I will not look back on this experience, now that it is done, and have the guts to call any of it easy, because it absolutely was not," she said. "I took each thing one at a time. I made sure to stay in the moment and not concentrate on how many hours were left."

Airmen Beard's hard work and dedication to completing a task come as no surprise to her supervisor.

"She showed that the Air Force is well beyond the days of just riding a bike and that we are training just like our brother and sister services," said Tech. Sgt. Natasha Carman, the full motion video operations NCO in charge for Air Component Coordination Element - Iraq's Collection, Management and Dissemination. "Airman Beard dominated the Spur Ride, representing the Air Force well and proving that we are fit-to-fight."

It all began... Shortly after her arrival on Camp Slayer from McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., Airman Beard was sightseeing around the base with a few of her co workers.

As they drove past the Flintstone Palace, she noticed a group of Soldiers marching with rucksacks on their backs. They were in the midst of a Spur Ride and it grabbed the young Airman's attention. She instantly made it a goal of hers and announced it to everyone in the vehicle.

"I'm going to do the Spur Ride before I leave Iraq," Airman Beard said.

Her statement was met with laughter and disbelief. Comments like 'that's why you're in the Air Force' and 'you're going to spend your days sitting at a desk instead' were made but fell on deaf ears because Airman Beard had already made her decision.

"They surely didn't stop me from doing what my stubborn mind had already set its self to do," she said. "I am definitely the type of person that sets her mind on accomplishing a goal and doesn't stop until that goal is 100 percent complete."

Her thoughts quickly switched to how she would prepare for the Spur Ride. Vigorous exercise? Marching?

"I thought of various ways to prepare but, the answer was, there is no way to truly prepare for something like the Spur Ride," Airman Beard said.

Not much time had gone by before her chance to tackle this daunting task was knocking at her doorstep.

Airman Beard spent the day and night before stressing out about the big day. She double and triple checked all of her gear to make sure she had everything. She even laid out her uniform, glasses and breakfast, consisting of a Gatorade, a power bar and a banana.

"I was nervous beyond belief, but it felt comforting to have complete control of at least the beginning portion of the Spur Ride," she said.

Editor's Note: This is part one of a three part series about Airman Beard and her Spur Ride experience. Part two and three will be posted Jan. 20 and 21, respectively.