By Spc. Jason KempFebruary 27, 2009
FORT RILEY, Kan. - In a time when racial integration was unheard of, retired 1st Sgt Albert Curley overcame hardships few today could imagine.
In 1939, the then 18-year-old Curley along with several buddies from high school in Helena, Ark., decided to join the Army when they saw a poster in the post office advertising a paycheck worth $21 a month for enlisting.
After basic training in tents at Fort Riley, Curley was assigned to Troop a, 9th Cavalry Regiment, a horse cavalry unit. Curley became what was known as a Buffalo Soldier. The name was given to the black union Soldiers by the Cheyenne warriors due to the respect they had for the buffalo and how difficult it was to kill.
"It wasn't disrespect because they respected the buffalo. The buffalo was hard to kill," Curley said.
After serving in the cavalry Curley was reassigned to the Company B, 371st Infantry Battalion, 92nd Infantry Division at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. There he met more prejudice than he had ever seen.
"We would go and try to go to the theater. We couldn't go to the theater. The white Soldiers would go first," he said. "Then they had PWs there, prisoners of war, they could go next, and if there were any seats left we could go."
Even their hygiene essentials and personal needs from the Post Exchange were put behind the prisoners of war.
"In the PX they had white help," said Curley. "When we got there if there was anything left on the shelves, we had to put our money on the counter; we couldn't hand the money to the clerk."
After serving in many different units, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star in Italy while advancing on machine gun nests and heavy artillery, Curley was finally awarded the rank of first sergeant when he was assigned to the 216th Supply Company at Fort Riley in 1967.
Curley retired from the Army March 1, 1969, and decided to stay in the Fort Riley area. He has been active in the Fort Riley community for many years and advises today's Soldiers to take advantage of all the military has to offer.
"By being in the military you can accomplish more and advance more, regardless of what race you are," said Curley. "You can advance more in today's Army than before. It's up to the individual to take advantage of the opportunities presented to him today."