Honoring Veterans of the Past
Soldiers of the 1st Maintenance Company, 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion spent an afternoon sharing stories about the life of today’s Soldiers with Vietnam Veterans of the 561st Combat Support & General Supply Company. (Photo by 1st Lt. Kymberly Koenig).
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Story by: 1st Lt. Kymberly Koenig
541st CSSB Public Affairs
Members of the 561st Combat Support & General Supply Company (CSGS) who served in Pleiku, Vietnam from 1966-1967 visited with Soldiers on the 541st Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas. The 17 Vietnam Vets who served as part of the 140 man fighting force from the CSGS in the Republic of Vietnam held a diverse range of jobs and responsibilities. Many of them held the rank of Private First Class and only 19 years of age, receiving minimal training prior to assuming the responsibilities of a Sergeant due to the lack of personnel. These men worked diligently, accepting great responsibility at such a young age and under immense pressure. "Mortar fire was not sometime, but it was 365 evenings dusk to dawn. Of around 190 or so guys, 100 at least would have been 19 years old and untrained, shared Mr. Edwin Yaw, former Company Clerk of the CSGS Company."
Many of the Soldiers who served with this unit during Vietnam served in similar fields as the Soldiers of the Pacesetter Battalion, known prior as the 541st Supply & Service Battalion. While serving in Pleiku, they provided POL storage for transport in the addition to the transport of weapons and ammunition, clothing and jungle issue and use items to Soldiers, to include canteens, belts, magazine pouches and half shelters. These Soldiers faced many of the same challenges our current Soldiers face.
More than 44 years have passed since this unit was last together and it had been years since many of these gentlemen had heard from one another however, an afternoon with these gentlemen seemed like not a moment had passed. Veterans of the 561st Combat Support & General Supply Company rekindled friendships and shared lasting memories and stories with Soldiers of the Pacesetter Battalion. The Soldiers of the CSGS reunited to pay tribute to the former 1SG Albert Curley, one of two remaining Buffalo Soldiers residing in the Fort Riley area. Buffalo Soldiers were part of an all-black Cavalry. Curley explained, "The buffalo's got curly hair in the middle of their head and the Negro Soldiers' hair was kind of curly. Cavalrymen wouldn't give up, just like the buffalo is hard to kill. Buffalo Soldiers protected railroads, stage coaches, the telegraph lines and the settlers."
Prior to their units fight in Pleiku, Vietnam, 1SG Curley had served in to previous wars. Yaw laughed, explaining, "We feared, and do I mean that, but very much respected First Sergeant Curley. We would spend much time in his presence staring at our boots or trying to stay very low profile." 1SG Curley enlisted in the regular Army at Fort Riley in 1940. He was assigned to Troop A, 9th (Horse) Cavalry. He left Fort Riley in 1943 and later went on to serve during World War II as a rifleman. In 1967, he returned to Kansas where he would go onto to serve 28 years in the Army prior to his retirement at Fort Riley in 1969.
The 1966-1967 Veteran's enjoyed a day visiting with Soldiers of the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Maintenance Company, 24th Transportation Company and the 266th and 165th Movement Control Teams. The 541st CSSB Soldiers explained to the Vietnam Veterans the details of their jobs and demonstrated the use of some tools and equipment available to them. The former Soldiers of the 561st CSGS enjoyed the opportunity to explore our modern day vehicles, barracks rooms and enjoy lunch in our dining facilities.
Yaw, offered one piece of valuable advice for our Soldiers, "when you are in a place that has significance and the people you are with are important, you may not feel its importance at a young age, but you are indestructible. Take a note of it anyways; never throw it away."