Chief Master Sergeant reflects on Black History Month

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Davis
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Command Post superintendent
As we recognize Black History Month, please pause, and recognize it for what it is. It is not a condemnation of separation of race or unfair treatment in past years, but a celebration of the brave men and women who came before us. Warriors who took a stand and in some cases gave their lives to help shape and build America and its military into the country we all know, love and protect today.

Personally, I see it as America's tribute to one aspect of our country's great history and an opportunity to educate all on the roles, influences and important contributions black Americans made to our great nation. It brings to light historical data perhaps not known or exposed to some of us in school or daily life.

Although it is called Black History Month, it is without question American history. It may not all be pretty, but it's an integral part of what makes us great. Our country has come a long way since the days of slavery.

The military has been a leader in that change dating back to Buffalo Soldiers, who were originally members of the U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on Sept. 21, 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Although several African-American regiments were raised during the Civil War to fight alongside the Union Army, the Buffalo Soldiers were established by Congress as the first peacetime all-black regiments in the regular U.S. Army.

The actual name Buffalo Soldiers has disputed origins ranging from 1866 when Cheyenne warriors translation of the black soldiers was Wild Buffalo due to their fierce fighting style. Another was because their black curly hair resembled a buffalo's coat. Still other sources point to a combination of both legends and say that in 1867, Private John Randall of Troop G of the 10th Calvary Regiment was assigned to escort two civilians on a hunting trip. The hunters were ambushed by a band of 70 Cheyenne warriors, after having his horse shot from beneath him, Private Randall managed to scramble to safety behind a washout under some railroad tracks. He fought off the Cheyenne warriors with only his pistol until help from a nearby camp arrived.

Although Private Randall suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder and 11 glance wounds, he caused the Cheyenne warriors to leave 13 fallen warriors behind. The Cheyenne tribe quickly spread word of this new type of solider, "who had fought like a cornered buffalo; who, like a buffalo, had suffered wound after wound, yet had not died; and who like a buffalo had a thick and shaggy mane of hair," giving birth to the Buffalo Soldiers.

From 1866 to the early 1890s the Buffalo Soldiers (9th and 10th Calvary Regiments and 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments) served in the southwestern United States (Apache Wars) and great plains regions, earning a distinguished combat record. In all, 13 enlisted men and six officers from these four regiments earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars.

The Buffalo Soldiers served the Army and the country in many different ways to include, escorting the U.S. Mail, the Johnson county war of 1892, and even as some of the first park rangers in American history in California's Sierra Nevada, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park and General Grant (Kings Canyon) National Park.

In fact, what the Buffalo Soldiers did was build a foundation for others to follow in their footsteps, creating opportunities for blacks and other minorities to reap the benefit of their blood, sweat and tears for generations to come.

The history of the Buffalo Soldiers is one of men who persevered and excelled despite treacherous conditions, which is the true fabric of America, not just black America.
Our forefathers of all colors and ethnic back grounds contributed to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. I for one am grateful to those who paved the way for me; without their sacrifices and undying will to succeed I surely would not be where I am today. I owe my ability to be promoted to the rank of chief master sergeant to all of those who sacrificed before me.

I take this time to pay homage to the Buffalo Soldiers; Henry O. Flipper (first black person to graduate from West Point Class of 1877); to the Tuskegee Airmen; to Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. (first black Air Force general); to Marcelite J. Harris (first black female Air Force general); to Chief Master Sergeant Thomas Barnes (first and only black Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force); and president Barack Obama (America's first black president) just to name a few.

Black History Month is not just for blacks in America, it's for all Americans. What Black History Month over the years has instilled in me is a deeper sense of pride in my heritage and has allowed me to learn more of America's history, exposing me to her heroes who happen to look like me. It has been a testament of how great America is and with hard work, dedication and perseverance there is nothing a person can't achieve in a land where dreams can come true. I am proud to call myself an American and I am proud to celebrate Black History Month as part of our American history, not just part of Black America's history.