The Marine Corps' last Mounted Color Guard enters 50 years of service
The Marine Corps' last Mounted Color Guard, housed at the Yermo Annex aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, launches into the year 2017 and its 50th year of service.
"In 1966, Lt. Col. Robert Lindsley came to MCLB Barstow (after serving in) Vietnam," explained Sgt. Terry Barker, MCG stableman.
"At that time a lot of the dependent children from base would take horses from the stables and ride them out in town in parades. Rather than the kids riding in the parades, Lindsley decided that we needed to have the Marines riding with the horses, so in 1967 he stood up the official Marine Mounted Color Guard here."
The Marine Corps' Mounted Color Guard pose for a portrait at the stables. Left to right: Sgt. Monica Hilpisch, Sgt. Moses Machuca, Sgt. Terry Barker and Sgt. Jacob Cummins. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Carlos Guerra)
The stables were renamed to honor Lindsley as the founder of the MMCG during a ceremony held on base in April of 2010.
Lindsley, a native of Columbus, Ohio, was born into a military family then joined the Marine Corps as an enlisted Marine in December 1941, days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1950, he was commissioned and after several assignments, he was stationed at MCLB Barstow where he was assigned to the Center Stables Committee, which later became the Mounted Color Guard.
Though there were multiple MCGs initially, MCLB Barstow is now home to the last remaining MCG throughout the Marine Corps. They travel far and wide to participate in events from coast to coast.
"Depending on budget and scheduling, we might be in events from California to Louisiana, Florida to D.C., Tennessee to Oregon," Barker said.
"We cover the four corners of this country."
There are some events that they never miss, such as the Tournament of Roses Parade held in Pasadena, Calif. every January. In that event, the MMCG always leads the parade and is the only unit to hold the American Flag. As a recruiting tool, the MCG reaches areas of the country where the Marine Corps is not otherwise represented.
"We have big bases in California, North Carolina and Okinawa," Barker said. "There are states in the mid-west where there are no Marine Corps bases, active or reserve. So, when we participate in rodeos, parades, or monument dedications, we are quite possibly the only Marines in the entire state. Everybody sees Marines on television, or in the news, but they rarely get to stand next to them, shake their hand and talk to them. That's what we get to do."
The horses and Marines train together daily, and always travel together.
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"We have a truck and trailer, and wherever they go, we go," Barker said. The Marines often go so far as to sleep in the truck and trailer, rather than reserving hotel rooms, in order to save money and stay as close as they can to the horses to ensure safety.
"Another benefit is we can get them ready earlier," said Sgt. Jacob Cummins, MCG Stableman. "Also we have to stay with our horses if they are not in a stables area."
All of the travel can be difficult, but Cummins said it's nothing like a deployment.
"For me, my wife is pretty conditioned to it," he said. "It's the kids that make it hard sometimes. They don't know why you have to go."
It helps to come back and get into a regular routine with family, as well as the horses.
"Our daily regimen (at the stables) depends on what's going on, as far as events," Barker explained. "We get here at 7 a.m. and feed and water the horses, and muck the stalls out. As Marines, we still have jobs to do as well, plus ground work, saddle training, and ranch maintenance."
"For our maintenance training and farrier work we have Terry Holliday, a contractor," said Sgt. Jacob Cummins, MCG stableman. "Each Marine is assigned to two horses to work with daily, and if any Marines are out, we cover their horses, too."
The Marine Corps' Mounted Color Guard. Left to right: Sgt. Monica Hilpisch, Sgt. Moses Machuca, Sgt. Terry Barker and Sgt. Jacob Cummins. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by: Carlos Guerra)
Much has changed over the years, to include the procurement and initial training practices for the horses. In the early stages, Lindsley went to Utah with $600 to purchase horses for use with the MCG Marines.
"The horses we use today are all obtained through the Horse and Burro Program out of Carson City, Nevada," explained Barker. "From there, they go through an inmate rehabilitation program, where the inmates get the horses to where they are green-broke, which means you can approach them, touch them, and touch their feet and so forth."
Some of the Marines assigned to the MCG, such as Barker and Cummins, as well as two other riders, Sgt. Monica Hilpisch, and Lance Cpl. Alicia Frost, have prior experience riding and working with horses. However, most of the riders assigned to the MCG, such as Sgt. Moises Machuca and Sgt. Miguel Felix who are both currently with the team, did not have any experience with horses prior to their arrival. It is Holliday's task to train the Marines to ride the horses effectively. The Marines learn basics first, such as the use of saddles, rein work, the various types of bridles and their functions, as well as how to make contact with the animals.
"They may come to the MCG without experience, but these are Marines and they're the best of the best, so they do this like they do everything else," said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Atkinson, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Mounted Color Guard. "They work hard and become the best. It's an honor to represent the Marine Corps in such a manner."