The focal point of my paper will be on the changes in the United States (US) armed forces over the last century. I chose to compare the Buffalo Soldiers, who existed from 1867-1896, and their experiences with the current state of the US armed forces. I was drawn to author, ZZ Packer’s “Buffalo Soldiers” because of my experience in the US armed services and, as I read the book it became clear that the US armed services today is very different from what it was at the time when the Buffalo Soldiers existed. I served honorably in both the United States Air Force and United States Army from 1985-2001, and my experiences are in stark contrast to the experiences of the Buffalo Soldiers. Buffalo Soldiers
Effective August 3, 1866, under the leadership of Major General H. Philip Sheridan the Buffalo Soldiers were formed. The US Congress had sanctioned an entire African-American unit commanded by non-blacks. The regiment's motto was, and remains, "We Can, We Will". The origin of the Buffalo Soldiers’ name was based on the resemblance between the curly hair and dark skin of the soldiers and buffalos. The regiment was composed entirely of African-Americans, who were illiterate, former slaves commissioned by Congress to patrol the Western region of the United States of America, following the Civil War. Consisting of two-infantry and two cavalry regiments, the ninth and tenth, they totaled over six-thousand men. Many of the African-American males enlisted into the Buffalo Soldiers as a form of economic stability to better their lives and the lives of their families. These African-American men were carefully selected for certain attributes such as commitment, courage, determination, hard working ethics, integrity, and self-worth. These qualities helped to prove their capability to become instrumental in eradicating negative depictions of African-American men who, at that time, were perceived as cowards and who suffered from an inferiority complex. Most of the Buffalo Soldiers were subjected to, and overcame, inconceivable adversities as well as racial inequality. They had to engage in the following conflicts: Wars with Native American Indians, War with Spain, The Mexican Expedition, World War II (not as a unit), Vietnam and Iraq War. Despite receiving inadequate training and shortage of supplies, they did not waiver during battles, but by trusting each other and unifying they defeated their enemy.
According to ZZ Packer’s account, Lieutenant Heyl, a white commanding officer in charge of the Buffalo Soldiers shows a blatant disrespect for them by being insensitive to the African-American men serving under his command. He constantly yelled at them and used abusive language toward them. Yet, he expected the Buffalo Soldiers to respect and obey his direct orders in the heat of combat with Native Americans while some gave their lives. Lieutenant Heyl’s limited insight and clear racism caused further division and strife within the ranks. Subsequently, the remaining Buffalo Soldiers challenged his competency and refused to have him humiliate them anymore. This resulted in charges of insubordination being brought against the disobeying soldiers. The US Armed Forces Today
Things are very different today in the United States Armed Forces. They are a set of fully integrated forces with equal opportunities for upward mobility for all ethnic groups. As an African-American who recently served in the US Armed Forces, I think my personal experience provides me with a first person opportunity to discuss examples of how serving in the United States military has changed for minorities. I was treated fairly throughout my early formative years in the service, and I excelled through the ranks because of many supervisors (of all ethnicities) who saw leadership potential in me and were advocating on my behalf. I successfully completed basic training, moved up the ranks and became a recruiter in Jamaica,...