MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Whether it’s during a Mardi Gras parade, or just a weekend night, Mobile’s Mounted Unit keeps downtown safe.

For the month of February, WKRG News 5 recognizes these officers and their partners with our Smiles Behind the Shield Award.

Mobile’s Mounted Unit is made up of teams.

Sergeant Christopher Giattina said, “Not having any horse experience getting on him, getting on Papa for the first time, it’s very intimidating. It’s a long way down. But being able to actually get him to do what I’m asking him to do, you know it’s amazing.”

Sergeant Christopher Giattina and Big Papa work together. They ride downtown during parades watching over the crowds. Sergeant Giattina said, “They’re everything to us out on the street. You know, without them we wouldn’t be able to do our jobs, and without us, you know they wouldn’t be able to survive, so it’s a, it’s a very close-knit partnership that you have to have with that horse.”

If you look around the stable, you’ll see all the officers and their mounts have a special bond.

There are several horses at the stable like Big Papa, Ghost, and Maybe. Officer Jason Martin explained the unit has a special way of naming mounts. He said, “This is JB. He’s our Percheron and quarter-horse cross. JB is actually for Justin Billa. We didn’t want to do Billa or Justin, So we decided on JB.”

Officer Martin said naming mounts after fallen officers is a way of paying homage to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice protecting the City. He said, “We’ve been doing that since we started with Siegler for Officer Brandon Siegler, so I mean it’s just kind of something we kept going on.”

Before the horses are ready for the parades, they do a lot of training.

Sergeant Giattina explained, “When you’re sitting up on a horse at a parade. Obviously things are being thrown, you know. And the some of the people that ride on the floats, you know they, they’re not trying to hit us, but they’re trying to get stuff to us and not thinking about it. What it can do to the horse. Horses don’t like them. They don’t like things flying at their face. They don’t like things touching their ears.”

If you see the Mounted Unit out at a parade, be sure to say hello, and maybe even bring a peppermint for Big Papa!