The Troop is a combat unit, and the military reserves that President Bush ordered activated yesterday are to serve as "support" for combat troops now in the Middle East.
The Troop dates to 1774 when 28 gentlemen of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club - fired up by the meeting in Philadelphia of the First Continental Congress - formed a cavalry unit, just in case the argument with Great Britain got bloody.
It claims to be the first military unit formed in defense of American independence, the oldest American fighting unit in continuous existence. And with 33 battle "rings," it's perhaps the most bloodied unit.
Just about everything associated with the First City Troop is unusual. Take the matter of "battle rings." Other military units are awarded streamers for participation in major battles. The Troop slips a silver ring unto its flagpole instead of adding a streamer.
More unusual, it's the only Guard unit whose members contribute all their military pay, plus additional dues, to the troop treasury.
It's the last unit in the nation allowed to elect its membership and officers. It's the only military unit with the officer rank of "coronet."
These "ancient rights and privileges" were granted by Congress to units in existence prior to the Civil War. Others merged, went out of existence or gave up "ancient rights," but not the Troop.
It's certainly the only military unit with a scale-model wooden horse used to practice saddling and for sitting upon when posing for portraits.
The Troop has been called one of the nation's most exclusive and expensive men's clubs. It's certainly a traditional stronghold of old-line Chestnut Hill and Main Line families.
But no other exclusive men's club requires Army basic training, monthly drills and two weeks of National Guard summer camp.
There's an odd duality here. It's "Joe" and "Pete" when they gather in coat and tie for traditional Monday night dinners at the Troop's fortress-like armory on 23rd Street near Chestnut.
But it's "Captain This" and "Sergeant That" when First City transforms itself into Alpha Troop, 1/104 Calvary Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard, at weekend exercises at Fort Indiantown Gap.
Why do they join? Lt. Keith Rogers, only 28, but elected second in command by mostly older men, represents the reason most are troopers: family tradition. A large portrait of his great-grandfather, a Spanish-American War veteran, hangs on one wall.
"My brother was a member, and I started coming down (as a visitor) while I was still in high school," says the real estate agent. He put in six months of regular Army training and became an officer later through college ROTC.
William "Buck" Buchanan, is the first in his family. An enlisted Navy man during the Vietnam War, Buchanan says, "I love horses and I had friends in the Troop. I've put in 17 years here."
Jack Ford is just another enlisted man in the First City Troop. But he's also a West Point graduate, who served seven years in the Army, including a stint in Vietnam.
"I read about this outfit in a Wall Street Journal article about 1981 when I lived in Seattle. I thought it was amusing," Ford recalls. A short while later his company transferred the salesman to Philadelphia.
"I was walking past here (the armory) one day going to Cavanaugh's Restaurant and realized this must be the place I had read about. So, I walked inside."
The place reeks with history and tradition. Its fine museum, which can be seen by appointment, includes a letter from George Washington, old uniforms, equipment, weapons, photos, paintings and war mementos. The troop served as a unit in every American war but Vietnam.
"Here's a snuff box owned by (the Marquis de) Lafayette," says Buchanan, pointing to an item on display. The French general served for a time in the Continental Army in the American Revolution. "He was a great friend of the Troop. The current Marquis de Lafayette had lunch with us a while ago."
How's that for tradition?