Separated by state but not history

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- At every wing staff meeting, the wing historian challenges the attendees with two difficult history questions. Today, I have one of my own. What significant historical connection lies between the towns of Sierra Vista, Ariz., and San Angelo, Texas?

Both town names have two words and start with the letter S? Too obvious. Both towns are on state highways that connect to I-10? Dig deeper. Sierra Vista is home to the Army's intelligence training at Fort Huachuca, much as San Angelo is home to the Air Force's intelligence training at Goodfellow Air Force Base? Better, but not quite there.

Perhaps some savvy readers would tie the two towns together by answering that the 17th Training Group has a Detachment at Fort Huachuca which provides various intelligence and communications training. Conversely, those with an Army bent might suggest the 344th Military Intelligence Battalion subordinate to Fort Huachuca's 111th Military Intelligence Brigade is stationed at Goodfellow. However, the answer I'm looking for is a connection that goes back more than 100 years.

And the answer is ... buffalo soldiers.

Fort Concho, established across the river from what would eventually become the town of San Angelo, housed elements of all four Buffalo Soldier Regiments: 9th and 10th Cavalry, 24th and 25th Infantry, during its active period from 1867-1889.

The most famous regiments were the 10th Cavalry, who were the ones originally labeled "buffalo soldiers." They protected mail and travel routes while scouting the region's terrain. Activities which took them through some of the most unforgiving and isolated areas in the country while earning them a distinguished record.

In 1882, the Texas frontier had been tamed, the 10th Cavalry relocated its headquarters, and the story of the buffalo soldiers moved elsewhere.

All four of the Buffalo Soldier Regiments reunited again at Fort Huachuca, in Southeast Arizona, 20 miles north of the Mexican border. The 24th Infantry Regiment arrived first in 1892, but it was not until 1913 when the 10th Cavalry entered Fort Huachuca that a continuous presence (nearly 53 straight years) of buffalo soldiers started.

A buffalo soldier was even in charge of the Fort. Charles Young was the first African American to achieve the rank of colonel and commanded Fort Huachuca from 1916-1917.

The endeavors of the buffalo soldiers were legendary during the so called "Indian Wars" and they also joined Gen. "Black Jack" Pershing's forays into Mexico to try and apprehend Poncho Villa. Because of the length of time buffalo soldiers served at Fort Huachuca, it is labeled as the "home of the buffalo soldier."

So the next time you drive west along I-10 in Arizona and reach exit 302, turn south and visit Sierra Vista. Notice the harsh climate that extended from West Texas to Southern Arizona and marvel at how the buffalo soldiers mastered this environment. Realize there is a connection between our two towns.

Now that you know a little history about the area, do not repeat a comment by then 2nd Lt. John B. Brooks (later Maj. Gen. Brooks, U.S. Air Force) who in 1913 upon learning about the transfer of the 10th Cavalry to Arizona, stated, "Hardly anyone knew how to pronounce Fort Huachuca and nobody knew where it was."