Security forces commander keeps black history alive

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Jennifer Richard
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
If you're thinking of committing a crime here, you may change your mind after you get a look at the security forces group commander.

Colonel Gerald D. Curry, 99th Security Forces Group commander, may strike fear in the hearts of wrongdoers, but many base personnel know he is easily approachable and friendly.

Few know, however, Colonel Curry has an active interest in the development of black officers and a special appreciation for Black History Month.

Black History Month is an important time for people to focus on the historical role of blacks in America, said Colonel Curry.

"Many will argue we don't need Black History Month," Colonel Curry said, "but until our society is truly color blind, the story has to be told."

Colonel Curry himself has helped to tell black history and inspire young black people in a book he wrote, "Striving for Perfection: Developing Professional Black Officers."

Published in September 2007, the 342-page book is aimed at today's young black officers, sharing lessons and advice black students don't receive in pre-commissioning training, Colonel Curry said.

In his book, Colonel Curry provides tips for success that cover a wide spectrum--from the importance of mentorship, to financial advice, to how to deal with being the only black person in a room.

"Too often we focus on counting heads instead of making your head count," said Colonel Curry. "You need to properly prepare, so people can easily see your presence makes a positive difference."

Colonel Curry's inspiration for the book came from his experiences as a group commander at the U.S. Air Force Academy from 2004 to 2006.

"Watching many of the cadets getting kicked out of the academy gave me the motivation to put this together and not wait until I retire," Colonel Curry said.

"There are a lot of young people out there who need this information and need it now," he said. "I'm trying not to disappoint."

Although targeted at today's young black officers, Colonel Curry's book offers lessons for all people. The success strategies in the book can help anyone in life, regardless of race, he said.

Not only is Colonel Curry a book author, he is also the outreach director for an upcoming documentary on black military history, "For Love of Liberty."

The documentary, featuring stars like Colin Powell, Morgan Freeman and Halle Berry, is scheduled to be released in February 2009.

Colonel Curry got involved with the documentary in November 2007 after he delivered a eulogy at a Tuskegee Airman's funeral.

The Tuskegee Airman's nephew approached Colonel Curry and asked if he would be interested in helping with "For Love of Liberty." Colonel Curry connected with the project organizers and was selected as the outreach director.

As a senior military officer, Colonel Curry finds special meaning in the documentary. The film describes the sacrifices of those who served before him, giving him an appreciation for the position he is able to hold today, Colonel Curry said.

Colonel Curry did not reach this point in his life without overcoming his own experiences of racial prejudice.

"I've had to deal with racism in my career, and I look at it as my obligation to ensure those types of things don't happen to anyone else," Colonel Curry said.

While assigned to Hahn Air Base in the 1980s, Colonel Curry's group commander demoted him from squadron commander to operations officer, then to shift commander and finally to base football coach.

Colonel Curry filed an inspector general complaint and a congressional complaint, and investigations proved that the group commander had a pattern of discriminating against blacks, Hispanics and women. The commander was removed from command and forced to retire.

When faced with difficult situations, Colonel Curry finds strength from the Air Force core values and the military oath of office, he said.

"Those two things, I think, reign supreme in defining our profession," he said, "and that transcends race."

Black History Month is not just about looking back on black history, but also looking forward to a bright future.

The American dream is alive, Colonel Curry said. It is there for anyone who embraces America's values and has the motivation to move forward, he said.