A dragoon is a soldier trained to fight on foot, but transport himself on horseback. In other words, they move as cavalry but fight as infantry. The name derives from their primary weapon, a carbine or short musket called the dragon. Sometimes dragon carbines are said to be called as such because they "breathed fire" — a reference to the smoke they emitted when fired.
Dragoons were organized not in squadrons but in companies, like the foot, and their officers and non-commissioned officers bore infantry titles. However, dragoons were at a disadvantage when engaged against true cavalry, and constantly sought to improve their horsemanship and armament to the cavalry standard. Thus, "dragoon" came to mean medium cavalry by the time of the early wars of Frederick the Great.
The term "to dragoon" dates from the earlier mounted infantry period. Dragoons were the most efficient and economical form of cavalry for police work and guerrilla warfare.
A current example of practicing dragoons would be the United States Army, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, known as the "2nd Dragoons". It is the oldest currently active combat unit in the US military. They use HMMWVs in the same manner one would have used horses during warfare, to great effect.
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