White recalls 'Blackhorse,' Vietnam legacies

Pfc. Kevin Dixon, combat engineer,    assists Monty Montelongo, a Blackhorse veteran
Pfc. Kevin Dixon, combat engineer, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Myer, Va., assists Monty Montelongo, a Blackhorse veteran, attach battle streamers to the regimental colors in an Aug. 4 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Blackhorse Regiment. From the Philippines Insurrection through the Gulf War, the 11th ACR has earned 14 battle streamers. Photo by Sgt. Carmen Burgess.

by Joe Burlas


WASHINGTION (Army News Service, Aug. 8, 2001) --- Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White helped more than 1,200 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment veterans and family members celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the regiment at a reunion dinner in Washington Aug. 4.

White served in the "Blackhorse" regiment as a scout and rifle platoon leader in Vietnam in the late 1960s, as commander of its first squadron in the early 1980s and as the 52nd commander of the regiment in the mid-1980s.

The 11th Cavalry Regiment was founded at Fort Myer, Va., on Feb. 2, 1901 by an act of Congress. A year later, it was in the Philippines fighting insurgents. In the past century, Blackhorse troopers have chased Poncho Villa during the Mexican Expedition, fought in Europe during World War II, saw combat during the Vietnam War, guarded the East-West German border through the Cold War and battled Iraqis in the Gulf War.

Shortly after the Gulf War, the 11th ACR was inactivated at its home base in Fulda, Germany, and then reactivated at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.

"The Army is seeing a lot of change these days with Transformation, but the Blackhorse is no stranger to change," White said. "One of my predecessors, another 1/11th commander, wrote shortly after the regiment formed that he had 400 horses that had never seen a trooper, 400 raw recruits who had never seen a horse and four lieutenants who had never seen a recruit.

"Today, the 11th Cavalry is the Army's premiere maneuver unit as the opposing force at NTC. The Army strives to match the Blackhorse from day to day."

White recognized his fellow Vietnam Blackhorse veterans as brothers for demonstrating courage in times of adversity and devotion to country during a time when patriotism was questioned by a large segment of American society. "There were no yellow ribbons tied around trees or parades waiting for us when we got home," he said.

Fresh out of the Armored Basic Officer Course and the U.S. Military Academy when first assigned to the Blackhorse in Vietnam, White said he had not seriously considered the Army for a career. However, combat, and the brutally effective way it wiped away the parade field nonsense, was a defining period in his life, he said.

"Together we experienced days of boredom interspaced with periods of sheer terror," White said. "Through it all, we forged bonds of friendship, trust, honor and hope that bonds us together like no others on earth. Soldiers belong to a unique brotherhood of war."

That sense of brotherhood and accomplishing missions with other men he could count on helped White decide to stay in the Army where he knew he made a difference. Before he retired in 1990, White climbed the ranks and earned promotion to brigadier general.

Blackhorse troopers plan to hold another reunion in the summer of 2003 in Fulda, Germany.