NEWTOWN, Conn. -- You may have seen them in holiday parades or at special events in Newtown or other places across the state. Each one wears a blue uniform embossed with a Connecticut state emblem and sits atop a horse. But when together, they all move as one unit.
They are the members of the Second Company Governor's Horse Guard (2GHG), an all-volunteer militia organization founded in 1808 whose primary mission is to serve the governor and the State of Connecticut.
"We are one of the last still active mounted cavalry units in the United States. These units were originally formed in New Haven by members of George Washington's cavalry," said Ken Fay, 47, of Bethel, a 2LT public affairs officer and volunteer with the 2GHG.
The Friends of the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard is hosting its inaugural Iron Horse 5K trail run on Sept. 24 in Newtown. All proceeds will go directly to caring for the horses of the 2GHG.
There are over 20 active members in the organization, which is based in Newtown.
The 2GHG is one of four State Militia Units in Connecticut: the others are the First Company Governor's Horse Guard in Avon, a First Company Governor's Foot Guard in Hartford and a Second Company Governor's Foot Guard in New Haven.
The 2GHG has been called into action by the U.S. government many times in its history, according to Fay.
Originally, there were two Connecticut state capitols -- one in Hartford and one in New Haven. "Before there was a regular U.S. Army, everything was protected by citizen soldiers," Fay said. "The governor would travel from one capitol to the other. He would get escorted and protected by the First Company Horse Guard and the First Company Food Guard.
"In World War I, we became a machine gun unit that served in France and during World War II, we became an anti-aircraft battalion who served in the pacific," he said.
While its original mission was more toward protection, "over the last 200 years, horses have been relegated more toward ceremony and service," Fay said.
However, the 2GHG still serves a critical purpose today, when the need arises. During Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the 2GHG unit was ordered to provide assistance for the National Guard offices in Connecticut, he said.
Also, "during a storm, we could get ordered to hand out water and set up cots at the shelters," he said.
The 2GHG is always looking to recruit more members. It is not necessary to have militia or horseback-riding experience to join. All training is provided.
"You only need a love for wanting to serve and time in your life to serve," Fay said.
Graduates of the program take part in a formal military ceremony, where they earn their spurs. "You become a mounted cavalry trooper. You then become part of Connecticut's long-standing cavalry tradition," he said.
Fay said he feels honored and privileged to be part of the 2GHG. "You are serving for a cause and upholding a heritage and a history. You are continuing a legacy that has lasted for more than 200 years."
2GHG meetings are held Thursdays from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Members of the public are invited to attend. For more information about the 2GHG and about the 5K run, click here.
The Second Company Governor's Horse Guard is based at 4 Wildlife Drive in Newtown on the former campus of Fairfield Hills Hospital. For more information, visit its website .