Pershing was sworn in as a West Point cadet in 1882. He graduated in 1886 and reported for active duty on September 30, 1886, and was assigned to Troop L of the 6th U.S. Cavalry stationed at Fort Bayard, in the New Mexico Territory. While serving in the 6th Cavalry, Pershing participated in several Indian campaigns and was cited for bravery for actions against the Apache.
Between 1887 and 1890, Pershing served with the 6th Cavalry at various postings in California, Arizona, and North Dakota. He also became an expert marksman and, in 1891, was rated second in pistol and fifth in rifle out of all soldiers in the U.S. Army.
On December 9, 1890, Pershing and the 6th Cavalry arrived at Sioux City, Iowa, where Pershing played a role in suppressing the last uprisings of the Lakota (Sioux) Indians.
In September 1891 he was assigned as the Professor of Military Science and Tactics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a position he held until 1895. While carrying out this assignment, Pershing attended the university's College of Law, from which he received his LL.B. degree in 1893
On October 20, 1892, Pershing was promoted to first lieutenant and in 1895 took command of a troop of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, one of the original Buffalo Soldier regiments composed of African-American soldiers under white officers.
He fought in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War.
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