Feature   Know Your Military

Face of Defense: Riding Proud

Dec. 30, 2019 | BY Shannon Collins

Marine Corps Sgt. Ashtyn Hammer says she grew up on the back of a horse.

Now she spends her days riding and caring for them, as a member of the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard — the only remaining mounted color guard in the Corps.

A Marine poses for a picture in dress uniform.
Ashtyn Hammer
Marine Corps Cpl. (now sergeant) Ashtyn Hammer, as a member of the last remaining Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, poses for a command photo as required by all members of the team.
Photo By: Jack J. Adamyk, Marine Corps
VIRIN: 190710-M-JT686-364C

Marine Corps Sgt. Ashtyn Hammer
Job Title: Stableman
Hometown: Fruita, Colorado
Unit: Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard
Stationed: Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California

How does it feel to be a member of the last mounted color guard in the Marine Corps?

It's such an incredible opportunity, and I'm so grateful to be able to represent the Marine Corps in a way that's incredibly special to me. I grew up on the back of a horse, so being able to ride horses while in the signature dress blue uniform is like a dream come true. I'm honored to be one of the few Marines that get the prestigious honor to be a part of the team and present the colors while on horseback.

A Marine in formal dress rides a horse at a rodeo.
Opening Ceremony
Marine Corps Sgt. Ashtyn Hammer, with the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, rounds the arena during the opening ceremony of the Marine Corps Rodeo, held at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., Sept. 21, 2019.
Photo By: Rob Jackson, Marine Corps
VIRIN: 190921-M-EL583-006C

What's it like going from working on attack helicopters to working with horses?

Working on attack helicopters was a challenging, yet rewarding field. ... Working with horses has its own unique challenges. It's just as rewarding and is very dear to my heart. It's super cool to me that I went from working on some of the best warfighting technology and equipment we have today to working with what was considered the peak of maneuver warfare [horses] from over a hundred years ago.

A Marine speaks to a child outside a stable as a horse is peers out.
Equine Appreciation
Marine Corps Sgt. Ashtyn Hammer speaks to a fan about the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard during Equestfest in Burbank, Calif., Dec. 29, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Nathan Hall
VIRIN: 191229-M-FO538-963Y
A Marine in a formal dress uniform smiles at the camera as she kneels down and has her arm around a young girl who is dressed up like a Marine.
Picture Perfect
Marine Corps Sgt. Ashtyn Hammer, a stableman with the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, poses with a young girl dressed as a Marine during the Marine Corps Rodeo held at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., Sept. 20, 2019.
Photo By: Jack J. Adamyk, Marine Corps
VIRIN: 190920-M-JT686-005C
A woman wearing a white cowboy hat, shows a child wearing a red bandana how to rope a mock calf.
Kids Rodeo
Marine Corps Sgt. Ashtyn Hammer teaches a child how to rope a calf during the kids rodeo portion of the Marine Corps Rodeo held at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., Sept 21, 2019.
Photo By: Jack J. Adamyk, Marine Corps
VIRIN: 190921-M-JT686-0003C

How do people react when people see the mounted color guard?

Well, as someone who has seen them in action as a civilian  — from before my time in the Marine Corps — it is a mesmerizing experience. I was competing at the [Colorado Professional Rodeo Association] finals in Grand Junction, Colorado, when I saw them. Everyone was transfixed on their every move as they entered the arena. Before the announcer could even ask people to stand for the national anthem, everyone was already standing, hats removed and hands over their hearts. You could hear each step the four palomino mustangs took ... [as they] headed to the center of the arena. After the national anthem played, the mounted color guard started to exit the arena with every eye still on them, showing every ounce of respect with hats still removed until they were completely out of the arena. It is still one of my favorite memories, and I believe that those people who get to witness the Marine Corps' last remaining mounted color guard have experienced similar moments.

A Marine smiles.
Warm Up
Marine Corps Sgt. Ashtyn Hammer, a stableman with the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard, gets in a warm-up ride with her horse before the presentation of colors at the annual Barstow Rodeo kickoff in Barstow, Calif., Sept. 19, 2019.
Photo By: Rob Jackson, Marine Corps
VIRIN: 190919-M-EL583-001C

What do you hope to accomplish with the mounted color guard?

Coming from a unit that not many people had heard of, I want to help broaden the public's knowledge. ... The mounted color guard is an incredible recruiting tool that has limitless potential, which I look forward to expanding. I believe the mounted color guard is one of the best ways to interact with the public and create phenomenal relationships and connections with prominent members of the community throughout the United States. I just hope that I can have a small part in getting the word out that such a special unit exists. I can't wait to come to a town near you!

A rider steers a brown horse around a barrel during a rodeo.
Barrel Turn
Marine Corps Sgt. Ashtyn Hammer rounds a barrel during a barrel-racing event at the Rim Rock Rodeo in Fruita, Colo., in 2013. Hammer enlisted in the Marine Corps after seeing the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard at a rodeo event near her home.
Photo By: Courtesy photo
VIRIN: 130722-O-ZZ999-609C
A rider is hunched over a horse as they chase a cow during a rodeo.
Rodeo Ride
Marine corps Sgt. Ashtyn Hammer, with the Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard tries her hand at calf roping during the Marine Corps Rodeo held at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., Sept. 21, 2019.
Photo By: Rob Jackson, Marine Corps
VIRIN: 190921-M-EL583-009C