Louisiana’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is currently deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Our Hero Salute is focusing on these soldiers who are serving our country and achieving big goals.

We are saluting today a soldier who earned top honors in a tough event, but he credits the friendship of another soldier for his success.

“Silver Spurs is what you earn. The Spur Ride is a rite of passage that the Calvary troopers did way back,” explains Specialist Rene Hernandez.

He recently completed the Spur Ride and earned his Silver Spurs. Historically, cavalrymen proved their metal on horseback. Today, the competition involves different skills. Packing, being taken to task by cadre, not much sleep, and then a 12 mile ruck march they must complete in under four hours.

“It sounds easy to march 12 miles, but with your rifle, chest plate and other gear, it’s not easy. It’s not for the faint hearted,” says Hernandez.

Following the march, candidates must successfully complete tests of basic warrior tasks.

Specialist Hernandez not only earned his spurs, he finished as Top Trooper.

“It means that I performed pretty well compared to my peers, and I got a lot of help from my buddy here which really helped me a lot.”

His buddy is Specialist Jayluan Smith who also completed the spur ride.

Smith says, “We got a good friendship. I just wanted to motivate him because he tried to stay with me but I wanted him to win and that would be awesome.”

They began the march ahead of the other solider’s participating until smith’s legs forced him to slow down.

“I told him we can make it so we kept running and I was like you got go. I’m not going to be able to keep up at this pace. It was like a movie scene I keep telling you go go on without me,” the pair explained.

Both men have not only proven their ability as cavalrymen, but also as true battle buddies.

“It was a big process and it really took a lot of miles and a lot of getting up and actually doing the work and I can’t stress enough I’m pretty blessed to have him by me,” says Hernandez.

Hernandez also sent his love back to his two small children and Smith says he can’t wait to give his mother a hug.

The 256th will return to the states later this year.