Today in AFJ History

August 8, 2013  

1988: Gen. Gray gives AFJ an earful

From the archives: August 1988

Interview: Gen. Alfred M. Gray

Commandant of the Marine Corps

By LuAnne K. Levens and Benjamin Schemmer

Gen. Alfred M. Gray

Gen. Alfred M. Gray

AFJI [the magazine was at the time called Armed Forces Journal International]: What’s the reason for and focus of your “war-fighting” and “warrior” initiatives?

General Gray: The nation expects its Marines to be fully ready and prepared at all times for any type of conflict. And certainly war fighting and the idea of being a warrior are what we’ve long been known for, so that’s a natural focus.

But more directly, we have noticed out in the field for the past few years, looking at the kind of conflict we face tonight and tomorrow, as opposed to the days gone by, there are no longer any front lines. There weren’t any in Indochina or Vietnam, and certainly there won’t be any in a future conflict, particularly in the third world or those areas where we’re likely to be employed…

The Warrior Spirit at Work in an Interview

[In this sidebar to the edited interview, AFJ editor Schemmer offered an unfiltered look at what an interview with Gen. Gray was like.]

Whoever once said, “Don’t argue with an editor who buys his ink by the barrel” never got the word to the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps. AFJI’s interview with him was not all peaches and cream. A thoroughly and almost disarming gentleman, Gray does not, however, suffer fools lightly — especially editors who interrupt him to press him on points he thinks should be obvious. We’ve removed the following exchange from the body of the accompanying interview so as not to distract the reader. But since it exemplifies something of great warrior spirit (or perhaps just a combative early-morning bent), we share it with our readers here.

AFJI: Can you give us a specific example of what you’ve done as a result of the bottom-up look that has liberated the resources to train all Marines again as warriors? We want to understand how you’re managing the Marine Corps.

Gray: You don’t understand me, and you don’t understand what I’m doing, and you’re coming in here for an hour trying to learn a decade’s worth of professional knowledge and expertise regarding getting things done. That’s what bothers me about not having [more] time, because if we don’t articulate the total approach, you just take some pot shots and  people don’t really know what the hell you’re talking about.

AFJI: With all due respect, sir, let me interrupt. You’re frustrated because were trying to edit an interview that very busy people can read. But we’re professional editors, and I think we have some feel for what the readers are going to want to ask us after they’ve heard certain rhetoric: “Gee, what’s he talking about? Give me an example.” Because most of our readers are like us; they haven’t been studying you or the Marine Corps for 20 years.

Gray: I’m trying to give you an example!

AFJI: Great.

Gray: I just gave you one and you don’t even know what the hell I’m talking about. You’re not listening to me. You want me to say, “Well, I took a battalion of tanks and put them in the reserves and therefore got some money to do warrior training.” That’s the kind of thing you’re looking for, and that’s not accurate.

AFJI: No. No. We’re looking for your answers. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth or invent something. What was the example I missed? Forgive me.

Gray: Well, I told you. We adopted a campaign approach to training and to preparation…