• Service Schools Detachment served post 22 years

  • People behind place names

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  • Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
    Fort Leavenworth is justifiably proud of the Buffalo Soldiers. The post was the first duty station of the 10th Cavalry Regiment. Organized on post in July 1867, it later served at Fort Leavenworth from October 1931 to December 1940. Several troops of the 9th Cavalry served on post in parts of three decades: 1886-1889, 1890-92, 1904-1908. Both units are honored at the Buffalo Soldier Monument.
    Another unit with soldiers of African descent spent more time on post than the two cavalry regiments combined — the Army Service Schools Detachment (Colored) served from July 1909 to October 1931 — 22 years. The detachment’s name changed with that of the school to General Service Schools Detachment (Colored) in 1922, and finally the Command and General Staff School Detachment (Colored) in 1928. It was also known at Detachment 2. The story started not in Kansas but in New York.
    In 1907, an underperforming unit provided housekeeping and support duties at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. The cavalry detachment lacked proper discipline and had a high desertion rate. In search of a solution, War Department staff officers suggested to Army Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. J. Franklin Bell replacing the white West Point cavalry soldiers with black troopers from the 9th Cavalry. The change was made, proved a success, and led to the creation of several additional school detachments, including at Fort Leavenworth.
    Fort Leavenworth actually had two school detachments, one white and one black. The white detachment was authorized 71 soldiers and performed duties connected with printing, binding, map reproduction and clerical duties in support of academic instruction. The black detachment, “colored” in the parlance of the day, was much larger, authorized 133 soldiers. It supported the equitation program, served as janitors in academic buildings and pulled the normal duties of soldiers of that era. Support of the equitation program was hard work with long hours caring for horses, mucking out stables, and cleaning and maintaining saddles and other equipment.
    Initially, G Troop, 9th Cavalry, on post since October 1904, performed these duties but Army leadership was concerned that tactical proficiency was suffering and in July 1909 Army Service Schools Special Order 42 established the Army Service Schools Detachment (Colored). War Department General Order 118, June 15, 1909, had previously authorized 95 privates, two cooks (who received pay equal to sergeants but were not considered noncommissioned officers), and 36 sergeants for the detachment.
    Forty-five troopers from G Troop volunteered for duty with the detachment when the troop departed for Fort D.A. Russell, Wyo., to join the rest of the regiment. Soldiers and NCOs came from other black units around the Army, such as the 24th and 25th Infantry regiments, to bring the detachment up to strength. In the July 1910 Annual Report of the Army Service Schools, school commandant Brig. Gen. Frederick Funston wrote that both the white and black detachments were an improvement over the old system.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Army Service Schools Detachment (Colored) remained active at Fort Leavenworth for the next 22 years, including post support when the schools moved to France during World War I. The workload for the detachment increased when the schools reopened in 1919 and in 1921 the school commandant requested an increase of 125 authorizations.
    School detachments were real units. In 1909, the Quartermaster Corps designed green as the color for coat trim, trouser stripes and chevrons. A distinctive round badge was worn on the dress uniform cap. The detachment was commanded by a white officer who was typically dual-hatted to teach equitation as a part of the academic curriculum.
    For the black troopers of the detachment it was not all work and no play — or rather, work of a different sort. They supported horse racing and polo matches on post and for years provided riding lessons to Army family members. In 1926, they assisted in the establishment of what today is the Fort Leavenworth Hunt. Some worked off duty as strikers performing odd jobs for officers stationed on post.
    In October 1931, the 10th Cavalry returned to Fort Leavenworth and the detachment was absorbed into the regiment ending more than two decades as a separate unit. A pessimistic reading of the detachment’s history shows it as just a continuation of the Army’s habitual use of black troops as service units, but the performance of duties of these proud soldiers contributed to the school, post and Army’s mission. A walk through the Buffalo Soldier area around Gruber Fitness Center, Muir Hall, Flint Hall and McNair Hall will provide insight into this mostly forgotten Regular Army unit.
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