Dragoon Base

Connecting the Troopers of Today with the Veterans of Yesterday.

Or someone did. And since this is the Oldtimers Group and I see some who were on the Border in the 60's. Here's my answer. 

I served in B Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Cav. from 84 to 88. 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry assumed the Border Mission in 1971 with primary Camp being Camp Pittman and primary responsibility for Sectors 21 through 26 came under 1st/1st Cav. The reason 1/1 assumed the Border Mission was due to 2nd ACR's Border Mission being expanded. 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry came under the 2nd Armored Cavalry BOSOP and overall Command of the 2nd ACR Commander. 

I served a lot of tours at Pittman, multiple tours at Gates and Reed and one tour at Hof. During that time I served as Patrol Leader and Assistant Patrol Leader, worked in Ops (when our Platoon had the Ops Mission) at Pittman and Gates and for a short period was detailed to 2nd ACR Regimental Ops. Also did the rest of it including Primary and Secondary Combat Element, Increased Activity, GSR Security, Relay etc. Joint Patrols, which were not just with BGS from the BRO but also with BBP and Zoll (OP's). About the only thing I didnt do was Reaction Force. At least in our Squadron, Reaction Force was a Scout Mission and consisted of two flat top 113's and two ITV's and sometimes a Mortar Track. I do remember some of the 2nd ACR Reaction Forces included Tanks. Was never once on Ash and Trash Platoon. During one of the Air Show's I even volunteered to sit and watch the Cheb-Bayreuth Air Corridor, we were insuring the Soviets were not flying more than two Aircraft across and only one at a time. We had aerial OP's spread out along their route and the Air Force had Fighters flying up and down their ADIZ Corridors. 

On a side note, my Mailman is a retired Fighter Pilot and ADIZ qualified and flew those corridors in F-4's and F-16's. 

My first tour which started less than 12 hours after arriving in the Unit was a 60 day at Gates. My (what was supposed to be) last tour was also a 60 day at Gates. Turned out it actually wasn't. When I and another guy who had arrived the same day, thought we were leaving on our last ride and flight off the Border, courtesy of Colonel Steele, amended orders were waiting on us at Squadron HQ. Six month involuntary extension. 

A good read and the reason the Border Mission was expanded is included, is "Fighting the Cold War" by General Galvin. Changes had to be made due to the Soviets moving a lot ofDivisions into Czechoslovakia during the 1968 invasion. I think the number was 22 Divisions. General Galvin says the U.S. Commanders were impressed that the Soviets were able to move 22 Divisions undetected. They were also alarmed the Soviets were able to move all those Divisions undetected.  

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Welcome to the Dragoon Base Oldtimers group, Jeff.

I've done quite a bit of studying on the border mission between 1945 and 1984, and served on the border myself out of Camps Gates and Pitman 1974-75 with 2ACR, but had never heard of 1/1 Cav on the border until recently. Your 1971 date has me scratching my head. 11ACR was on the inter-German border and 2ACR on the Czech border during the 70's.

That should be '78 not '71. The reason for the Mission change was the same. Yea, there is a lot people dont know. 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry, 1st Regiment of Dragoons assumed the Border MIssion and responsibility for Camp Pittman and Sectors 21 through 26. The actual first log entry for Camp Pittman and the assumption of the Border Mission is floating around, I have it but have to dig it up. 

After over 30 years of studying Border Operations in detail, I find there is a lot of information that even Border Cav Veterans do not know. Some examples. 

The actual Border Mission we participated in did not begin under NATO agreements until 1955 and were not related to Cold War Agreements. Had every unit in Germany withdrawn in the 1970's, the Border Cavalry Mission would have remained. Source is the National Security Council, late 1970's. 

There were two primary missions, the most important being Intelligence Gathering and Reporting followed by Countering Warsaw Pact Border Incursions. Same Source. 

Dragoons is purely a Historical and Lineal title. Border Cavalry were Irregular Cavalry, Dragoons are Regular Cavalry. Two entirely different things, in modern times and Historically. A good study is why Custer's Cavalry had their asses handed to them. The Irregular Frontier Cavalry was no different than modern Border Cavalry. 

In fact, the U.S. Army considered the Border Cavalry "Special Operations" but separate from Special Forces and Clandestine Operations. you can find that in your Cavalry Field Manuals, especially the 1960's guys. 

From 1978 to reunification Camp Pittman and those sectors were the responsibility of 1st Squadron, 1st Cav under 2nd ACR. I have handed over Camp Pittman more than a few times and never even handed over to 2nd ACR, always to Augmentee Units. At one point Camp Pittman was occupied by an entire Military Intelligence Unit. That Unit was not allowed to run Patrols and OP's. 2nd ACR covered down on those sectors. 

The reason I bring that up, and can bring a lot more up, is that thing about the Cold War Medal. Technically, if you went back and read everything that was discussed by the National Security Council, CIA Analysis, records from the National Intelligence Archives, again "technically", if there were a Cold War Medal, Border Duty wouldnt qualify. I read what people say about a Cold War Medal and certain Veterans Organizations frequently, including posts here.  But there is an organization that I am a member of that every Border Cav Vet should be a member of. Not everyone can become full members, but Border Cav can. And of all of the Border Cav guys I know, and it is a lot, I am the only member out of all of them. 

I am well aware of the mission and who was where. Including Camp Pittman and 1/1 Cav., so was DoD, the NSC, U.S. Army Center for Military History and Global Security.  

Like I said, I have been studying the Border mission for 30 years +, in detail. I now have over 60,000 documents related to Border Cavalry and Operations from numerous Government sources and have read and studied them all. We were Dragoons in Lineal Title only. Our actual mission was that of Irregular (Frontier) Cavalry. 

That map, which I also have, all of the maps, including maps not published by the USACMC (Like that one), dont even come close to telling the story. 

There were a thousand moving parts on that Border. Each of us individually was nothing more than a tiny little part of it and we were definitely not privy, at the time, to everything that was going on. 

another good read is the Unit history. Riveting - as it happened recon plt report from the '68 Czech invasion. All done on a hand cranked field radio which the Russians picked up on and they had to hot foot it home. As the Special Staff for Air Defense i figured the Flanker D could reach us ar Bindlach in under 10 sec. When the Germans mounted that 60 ft tall stack on the Mess Hall and then TWO super reflective orange bans on it... I was pretty sure we were going to be ground zero.

Oh yea, I have read the Unit History many times. Am familiar with 2ACR (2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron and 41st Cavalry Group, in the Official After Action Report it is referred to as the 41st, not the 42nd) history back to their forward Passage of Lines with the 4th Armored, and who "REALLY" took Weiden and their Liberation of the American Slave Labor at Marktrediwsz on their way to Cham. And everything forward. 

I was very interested to know why 1968 happened but we were totally prepared for 1980, 1983 and 1984. So I pulled every single record I could find on it. The reason we were totally prepared for 1980, 1983 and 1984 was BECAUSE of what happened in 1968. I read all of the investigations that followed all the way out to 1973-1974. That invasion nearly cost the Cavalry the Border Mission. It did end the careers of some senior Officers and changes were made that I and my fellow troopers would have never seen had it not happened. 

There is an old saying, and unfortunately, I can’t remember who said it or how exactly it goes at the moment so I'll ad-lib. It goes something like "It is the Heroes who slay the enemy, but it is the Historian that slays the Heroes". 

Thirty one Soviet Divisions took part in the invasion. Seventeen of the thirty one Divisions invaded Czechoslovakia with an additional 25,000 troops supporting 250 fighter, fighter bombers and 500 transports and other Aircraft.

So after things calmed down the questions of course started, as they have to in military operations in order to fix what went wrong. The Pentagon had questions. Here are some of those questions. 

* Where were the Leadership failures?

* Why was the Cavalry's OR 10% when it should have been above 80%?

* Why was there an entire Cavalry Troop with only one Full Mission Capable Vehicle? 

* Where were the Patrols and the OP's? 

* If four entire Soviet Motorized Rifle Divisions can move straight up to the Border undetected, do we even need the Cavalry on the Border? 

* What is the Command Climate? 

*What is the Command mindset? 

* How are the Troops being trained? 

* Were the Troops knowledgeable on the Mission? 

* How is the level of overall Unit Morale? 

Those were just some of the questions. Here are some of the answers. Short version. 

* The leadership failures came in that certain Leaders who were serving in the Cavalry did not have the mindset for modern, rapid, mobile warfare. They had underestimated Soviet capabilities and therefore took too narrow of an approach to the seriousness of the Border Mission. Men who had come up in the WWII and Post WWII Army, were still in the WWII mindset. 

* The Cavalry OR's (For some Troops) was 10% for two reasons. The Vietnam War was consuming everything material wise; the Units had no spare parts. New equipment was going to Vietnam, not to Europe. Pre-positioned Equipment Stocks were basically empty, and had a shooting war broken out in Europe, deployed Units, three Divisions from the States, would have almost no equipment to draw.  The Border Mission had basically been ignored and given a low priority when it should have been the highest priority.

* The reason there were entire Cavalry Troops with only a couple of Full Mission Capable vehicles was again due to lack of spare parts. Any parts that were destined for the Cavalry went somewhere else. The Troops cannot be blamed for an extremely low Operational Readiness Rates when they have no parts to fix broke vehicles. The Border Mission was placed on such a low priority, in fact the entire European Theater was on low priority, due to Vietnam that the entire Army in Europe had to be rebuilt. The fact is the Vietnam War left the European Theater in a shambles.

* Did the Cavalry need to be on the Border? Yes. It came up several times through the 1970’s. The Border Mission had nothing to do with Cold War agreements. It came up in 1977 when the British were going to abandon their Border Mission. The agreements were Security Agreements that were signed when West Germany regained her sovereignty in 1955. The Border Missions were Host Nation Security Agreements, not Cold War agreements.

* Patrols and OP’s were almost non-existent. Even if they said they were meeting mission requirements. There had to be some pencil whipping going on there, because the question should have really been, and I do not know if it was asked or not, but I’m sure it was, how are you meeting mission requirements with one, two, or three full mission capable vehicles?

 * The Command Climate (And Command Mindset) was extremely poor. Junior Officers interviewed anonymously, rank of Major on down to 2nd Lieutenant agreed on one thing.  I read what they said. The senior Chain of Command was Old Army. Old Army way of thinking was dead. They had no concept of modern rapid, mobile warfare or leading troops on a modern battlefield. The entire Chain of Command should be relieved or retired and replaced so they could “start fresh”. That was 2nd Cavalry Junior Officers said that anonymously.

* How were the Troops being trained? Answer. They weren’t. It went back to what the Junior Officers said about the “Old Army Mindset”. Troops are there to follow orders. When the Troops (Junior Enlisted) were interviewed on the Border, they had no knowledge of the actual mission and no idea why they were really there. They told interviewers they felt they were not needed, they had no mission, they felt the Soviet Army actually had it better than they did and overall unit morale was extremely low.

* Junior Enlisted knowledge of the Mission? None. The Junior enlisted interviewed had absolute zero knowledge of the actual Border Mission. They interviewed Troops who were physically on the Border and they had no idea why they were there. All they knew was there were Soviets on the other side of the Border. They also knew they could not accomplish their mission due to lack of equipment and broke down vehicles. They also felt the Commanders were not doing anything to resolve racial tensions within the unit and felt the West Germans hated them. They felt they had no mission and no reason to even be in Germany much less on the Border.

* Morale? Morale was considered low overall. It doesn’t take a genius to look at the situation of things and know why.

The Soviets moved 17 fully manned Divisions plus 751 total aircraft, including Fighters, Bombers, Transports, Artillery Spotting and Intelligence Aircraft and an additional 25,000 men into Czechoslovakia with an additional 14 Divisions moving in support. Four of those Divisions moved directly to the Czech Border. Initially undetected. Which should have never happened. The CIA analysis was the Divisions were manned to peacetime levels because they were moving unopposed. The Army analysis was, had the Soviets kept going, they would have been halfway across West Germany before the Army and USAFE had time to react.

Why was that? First, they weren’t detected, and the Cavalry had no capability to do anything anyway. And because the situation at the time, conducting readiness tests and alerts, was that U.S. Army Europe could only reach 75-80% operational status in 3-4 hours. Up to 1974 they were never able to better 80% in three hours. Based on that 1968 invasion, in three hours Soviet Troops would be shopping in Nurnberg.

The Soviet Army knew the status of the Cavalry on the Border. East German intelligence wasn’t good, it was the best in the world. The CIA said that, not me. They considered the Cavalry “threat” at that time to be completely negligible. In fact, so negligible that they were not even going to bother fighting the Cavalry. They were going to conduct a Bypass. They were simply going to screen the Cavalry on the Border with an East German Division, then drive to the north completely ignoring the Cavalry. Who would be able to do nothing. The Border Cavalry to the Soviets wasn’t even a real threat.

For all intents and purposes, and based on reports from the Army, 2nd ACR Troopers themselves, and even Press who were up there at the time, 2nd ACR from 1968 to about 1973 was “Combat Ineffective”.

So, do Unit Histories say all that? No, they don’t, because Unit Histories published for public consumption are barely more than Pulp Fiction. They only tell the good parts. Morale of the General Public and opinions of the military and all of that. It is up to the Pentagon to fix problems like this, and they did.

Was it the Troops fault, or the Junior Leaders, both Officer and NCO’s fault? Nope. They did the best they could with what they had. It was the Junior Enlisted and Junior Officers who brought all the problems to light. I personally could not even imagine being in a Cavalry Troop with only one full mission capable vehicle and four Soviet Divisions sitting in front of me. On top of all that it took a full twenty-four hours to get the first full U.S. Division moved forward.

To say that “We served in the Border Cavalry” would be a correct statement only so far as Unit lineage. Because we did not all serve in the same Border Cavalry even if we served in the same Units. I have read some Soviet Historians claim there were six or even eight Phases to the Cold War. But Military and Intelligence Historians I have read on the U.S. side say four Phases.

One Phase did not even happen. Détente. 1969 to 1974. To the public, it was a thaw in Soviet-American tensions and relations. But that was not what the Intelligence Analysis said and not even close to what Nixon could have been briefed on when Politicians were proclaiming Détente. Plenty fell for it. Peace was at hand. Look at 1968, if the Soviets were aggressive then why did they stop in Czechoslovakia when they could have kept going? That was proof that the Soviets didn’t want to take over Western Europe or the Americans out. No need to be there, stop wasting money, abandon the Border and bring the troops home. Well that is exactly what the Soviets wanted, and it would not be the last time they tried it.

Of course, it was all BS. It also led to something of “apathy” to U.S. Forces in Western Europe. Because the Soviets were not a threat. Well they were a major threat. But that period led to rebuilding the Army in Germany between 1974 and 1980 and further the buildup to the fourth Phase of the Cold War, what some Historians call: Phase IIII- Confrontation. Under the Reagan Doctrine.

So this is where the Border Cavalry of the Confrontation Period differs from the Border Cavalry of the 1968 and the Détente period. And changes that were obviously made based on the 1968 Invasion and throughout the early 1970’s.

  • At no time were we ever short of anything, Literally nothing. I can’t think of one single thing we were ever really short of.
  • All new equipment went to the Border Cavalry first. When the Abrams and Bradley’s went to Europe, 2nd ACR got them first.
  • There was none of that just sending troops to the Cav., you could not serve on the Border until you were fully trained, junior enlisted passed the Border Basic Test, Leaders passed the Border Leaders Test, all had to be traced. All had to know and understand every aspect of the mission.
  • Junior enlisted were trained the same as the NCO’s and Officers. They had to know the same Brevity Codes, they had to be able to quote those Brevity Code definitions verbatim and they had to know what constituted each Brevity Code definition. They had to know the Soviet Units, where they were, what vehicles and aircraft they had, probable avenues of approach, and they were never left out of mission planning.
  • All Troopers down to the lowest ranking Private serving on the Border had to hold a (Border Specific) Secret or above Security Clearance. A good example of that is the two page Christmas article from the 1980’s about the Border Cav. I believe it is called “On the Border, Vigilance Takes no Holiday”. One of the Spec/4;s says he wished he didn’t have a Secret Security Clearance, because if he didn’t they could not have brought him up to the Border. The reason for that was every rank was involved in the Mission and Mission Planning. That meant they had to go to the same briefings, same intel briefings, as NCO’s and Officers. We all sat through those briefings together, over and over and over.
  • As far as low morale. We didn’t have any of the problems that would cause low unit morale.

Every single thing that General Davison said he wanted fixed, that was addressed in all of the different types of reports, was fixed by 1975. And General Kroesen took it way further under the Reagan Doctrine (That Period which began in 1980). Unfortunately, prior to 1980, they had to gut the Stateside Army to fix U.S. Army Europe. But “fixing” the Cavalry and the Border Mission took top priority. The fact is the situation on the Border, things that occurred during the ’68 Invasion, along with the Vietnam War, the false sense of security that came with so called “Détente”, nearly caused us to lose the Cold War. I think it is safe to say it started with out inability to effectively respond to Soviet aggression in 1968.




This was the third design of the 2d Cavalry DUI, worn from 1924-1931. The sharp points on the ends of the bottom scroll again called for a redesign.


Machine Gun Troop, 2d Cavalry; Adjutant General.

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