Always out front.
Charles Young was born in May's Lick, Kentucky, in 1864. His parents were both slaves. In 1889, he rose above that humble beginning to become the third African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and sent to serve with the 10th Cavalry in Nebraska. Young spent his entire field career, nearly 28 years, with the black regiments, the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and the 25th Infantry. During his military career, he served in a number of interesting positions, including military science professor and national parks superintendent. Yet his passion was leading his troops. In 1916, during the Punitive Expedition in Mexico, Young led Fort Huachuca's Troops F and H, 10th Cavalry, on one of the last horse-mounted cavalry charges in history. This highlight of Young's career, perhaps the one for which he is most renowned, resulted in his promotion to lieutenant colonel in the 10th Cavalry. In 1917, he was promoted to colonel and served briefly as Fort Huachuca's commander.
In addition to his brave service with the cavalry, Young's lesser known accomplishments took place in the field of MI, particularly as a military attache. Young was the first African American appointed to serve in that capacity since the birth of the attache system within the Military Information Division in 1889. He was an accomplished linguist, fluent in Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, and German. From 1904 to 1907, then Captain Young served in Port Au Prince, Haiti, where he undertook an extended military reconnaissance of the country and the neighboring Republic of Santo Domingo and produced maps of much of the terrain. In 1912, he was selected for attache duty in Liberia, where he advised the Liberian constabulary; helped train the Liberian Frontier Force, and supervised the construction of new roads to provide military lines of communication. For his services there, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People awarded Young the Springarn Medal, an annual award recognizing outstanding achievement by an African American. Young remains the only member of the U.S. military services to receive this award since its inception in 1915. For his attache service, Young was also inducted into the MI Corps Hall of Fame in 1999.
Despite an exceptional career, Colonel Young was medically retired in 1917 for high blood pressure and Bright's disease purportedly incurred during his attache service in Liberia. He was, at this time, the highest ranking African American in the U.S. Army, and one of only three black commissioned officers. Charles Young's quest to serve during World War I was denied, but he was recalled to active duty in 1919 to serve again as military attache in Liberia. He died on January 8, 1922, in that post. At the time he was on a research expedition in Lagos, Nigeria. Although initially buried in Nigeria, his body was returned to the U.S. and interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., in 1923. In addition to being a fine Soldier and leader, Charles Young was a husband, father, poet, playwright, composer, and musician. He was known for his generosity, politeness, and dedication to his country and his race. He embodied the Army values.
Our Army is nearly always in a state of change. Today we call this Transformation, a focus on making our Army more efficient and effective. But historically we can look at transformations that have also made us morally and physically stronger, changes which also make us better able to meet the contemporary operating environment. Indeed, the Buffalo Soldiers are symbols of many of the transformations our Army has gone through in the past 200 years, and Colonel Charles Young is a symbol of personal and professional transformation. And best of all, he was an Intelligence soldier.
MI has also gone through some pretty major transformations over the past several years. But the word from commanders in the field is that today's Intelligence professionals are the best they have ever seen. Still, we can't rest because we know we have more transforming to do. You are all doing great things out there and it has been tremendously rewarding for me to be a part of your team.
Always Out Front!
With thanks to Lori Tagg, USAIC Command Historian.
Major General Barbara G. Fast Commanding General U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca