No Kidding...Fully Funded by the Public School System!

By Marilyn Short


L to R: Cadet Corporal Felipe Gracia and Cadet Major Isabel Zurita driving Ater.

It’s unbelievable to find a school that actually funds a Cavalry Color Guard. Not just any school, Rio Grande City High School…a PUBLIC school! Okay, so it’s not unusual for a school district to provide the uniforms and sabers for a JROTC unit, but to supply 4 horses, a mule, all tack, a wagon, flat-bed trailer, 5-horse trailer and Ford F250 truck…that is very unusual!

The Rio Grande City High School JROTC Rattler Battalion established the 12th Cavalry Memorial Unit in 1998 as a living history to the cavalry soldiers who served at Fort Ringgold and left a lasting impression along the Texas border. This unit complements the rich heritage and traditions unique to the South Texas border region.

Rio Grande City High School’s JROTC program was established in 1995 and consisted of 25 Cadets. Today they have over 200 cadets in the JROTC program. The development of the Color Guard was brought about by the school board president, the school board and the Mayor and is fully funded by the school. No services are donated for the Color Guard – the school pays for all board, feed, shoeing, and veterinary expenses.

The Color Guard consists of 4 of the 25 Cadets riding horses and carry the American flag, Texas flag, Rio Grande City JROTC Unit flag and the 12th Cavalry flag. Two cadets are chosen to drive the mule and wagon, with the wagon representing a supply wagon. Four backup riders and 2 backup drivers are also chosen for the school year.

Out of the unit, four 10th, 11th or 12th graders are chosen as primary riders and two drivers are chosen each year by their leadership skills, dedication, and responsibility. “We also look at their overall behavior in school and their ability to become role models for other students,” said MSG Marco A. Pena.

There are no riding or driving prerequisites. The only requirement for each cadet is to have a positive attitude and be willing to learn how to handle the horse and mule. A “can do” attitude. Those chosen to represent the Color Guard are required to participate in additional training on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:00-4:00 pm on the school grounds and the horses, mule and wagon are brought to he schools grounds for practices.

L to R: Cadet Captain Jose M. Ochoa riding Patrick, Cadet Captain Dario Marquez on Trucha, Cadet 1st Lt. Dhilendy Garcia on Precious and Cadet Command Sergeant Major Jose De la Rosa riding Buddy.

The school purchased all 4 horses and mule and these animals have received no desensitization training for the job – they were all well trained upon purchase. This year’s Battle of the Flowers Parade was the largest event the unit has participated in. “The horses and the mule were great,” said MSG Marco A. Pena, “they are all very well trained.”
The 4-legged cadets consist of: Trucha a 12-year-old mare; Patrick, a 14 year old mare; Precious, a 10-year-old mare; and Buddy, a 7-year-old gelding – all are bays. Ater, the mule rounds out the list and is 7-years-old.

Mr. Rodriguez, Head Wrangler, walking with
the unit in the Battle of the Flowers Parade.

Currently the horses and mule are stabled at Mr. Eloy Rodriguez’s ranch, the head wrangler for the Color Guard, the other wranglers consist of Cindy Rodriguez, Omar Saenz and Maria Saenz. Mr. Rodriguez also provides the riding and driving instructions to the cadets. While the students are on school breaks, the wranglers work with the horses and in late August the cadets start back up with the care of the horses and mule.

The school district is in the process of building a barn on campus where everything will be housed in one facility. Completion of the barn should be completed within a couple of months, prior to the start of the 2004-2005 school year.

The mounted Color Guard participates in about 15 – 20 school activities. It could be anything from Parades to supporting different fund-raisers or any community function approved by the school district. This year the JROTC participated in the Battle of the Flowers Parade for the first time…with the school district paying the expenses.

The unit instructors are Master Sergeant (retired) Marco A. Pena and Major (retired) David A. Rutledge.

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