No matter the time of year, sunrise in the Flint Hills of Kansas seems to have a calming peacefulness. For almost a year, these daybreaks have been enjoyed by U.S. Army Private 1st Class Cyrus Dougherty, a trooper assigned to the 1st Infantry Division's Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard (CGMCG).
Usually, in one of the pastures found around Fort Riley's installation before sunup, Dougherty enjoys the feeling of the slight Kansas breeze, the smell of the fresh outdoors, and the sight of the sun peeking over the horizon.
Influenced by a coworker-turned-mentor and former U.S. Army Ranger, Roy Shane Ward, Dougherty enlisted into the Army shortly after graduating high school.
A farmhand by environmental design, but an intelligence analyst by Army trade, Dougherty found that the cyclic lifestyle of working intel wasn't for him. Noticing Dougherty's decreasing drive, and wanting better for his Soldier, one of Dougherty's chief warrant officers presented him with the opportunity to apply for the CGMCG, one of the six remaining U.S. Army horse detachments.
"When I walked in for an application, I saw people in boots, jeans, and ballcaps," said Dougherty. "I knew right then that I had found my people and that this is where I belonged."
No stranger to working the land, the Grand Junction, Colorado native was raised in the field and around the rodeo circuit. Growing up working with his family on home renovations and car projects, Dougherty found a passion for the great outdoors during high school when he and his friends would frequent events like small rodeos and car races.
During his adolescence, Dougherty would leave Grand Junction to visit his grandparents in Kansas each summer. Animal caretakers themselves, Dougherty's grandparents exposed him to caring for deer, peacocks, geese, and more.
During these summer stays, each morning, Dougherty would visit one of his grandparents' neighbors and care for her three horses as well, feeding them in exchange for horseback riding lessons.
"Working, building things, and having something I can put my mind to is constantly what I'm after," said Dougherty. "That's one of the things I love about this type of work, it's never the same thing, and there's always something to do."
With the perfect background to become a CGMCG trooper, Dougherty applied those skills during his time as a candidate with the color guard and was eventually picked up as a member, where his skillset continued to grow.
Providing Dougherty with the opportunity to learn more about farrier, stablemaster duties, and leatherwork, the CGMCG offered more than physical labor; it provided a home.
"The bond that I've built with [the color guard] through this type of work is amazing," said Dougherty. "We call it a team, but it's really a family."
Assigned to the pasture maintenance shop of the CGMCG, Dougherty's primary duties consist of caring for the pastures, building enclosures for the horses, and clearing brush and rubble. Still, he offers his hand to the team in whatever area he can assist.
Being there for one another, the CGMCG offered Dougherty a sense of cohesion and camaraderie that he enjoys.
Looking forward to his next year as a CGMCG trooper, Dougherty seeks to take advantage of training and temporary duty travel opportunities.
While having plans of owning land with horses and cattle for recreational use one day, Dougherty has his sights on the immediate future for the next time he's out in the pastures of Fort Riley, enjoying another calming, peaceful sunrise.