JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – During World War II, his grandfather served in segregated units. It wouldn’t be until after the war ended, in 1948, that the military would be officially desegregated. Today, Gen. Gary Brito serves as the commanding general of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command.
He’s not only the first African American general to hold this position, but he was also the first to be the commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Georgia. When presented with these accomplishments he is quick to say he is, “very honored, humbled, and blessed to be here.”
Brito’s journey with the Army began at the ROTC information booth during his freshmen year at the Pennsylvania State University. At the time, he had no desire to join the Army. He wasn’t part of the ROTC scholarship program but wanted an extracurricular activity to fill his spare time.
“I liked the outdoor challenges,” he said. “I liked the leadership challenges and development. It kind of intrigued me. So that’s why later, I decided to commit.”
Even after his initial obligation, Brito wasn’t considering the Army as a lifetime career. He thought he would serve for four years then get out - four years turned into 36. In that time, while he found a passion for service, it was the people who kept him in the Army.
“I was very fortunate to have good platoon sergeants when I was a young lieutenant,” he said.
One of those platoon sergeants, Pete Adams, even attended Brito’s promotion ceremony in September 2022. It’s leaders like Adams who inspired Brito, he said, to achieve more and do his best to serve others throughout his Army career. He often recalls the words of another senior noncommissioned officer who advised him to take care of his Soldiers and the rest would fall into place. He made sure to fulfill that advice as he moved from post to post.
Throughout his career he received words of wisdom that helped shape his leadership style, not only from his fellow Soldiers but also from his wife.
“I don’t want to take credit for my wife’s words,” he said, “but as she says, ‘location was secondary, it was all about the people you served.’”
Serving people has become the backbone of Brito’s career. He sees his role as the TRADOC commanding general as supporting Army leaders, fellow commanders, Soldiers, civilians, and families. Taking care of people is essential to delivering a combat ready force for the Army.
“When called upon, the Army will deploy, fight, win, and come back,” he said. “Mastering your craft enables those things.”
Throughout his career, Brito has been inspired by many of his fellow Soldiers, but one in particular achieved the highest level of honor. He was the commander for Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor in December 2021 for heroism in Iraq, a recognition he pursued for the Soldier for many years. Cashe is the only African American Soldier to have received the MoH since 1969. Brito describes feeling honored to have been Cashe’s commander and hopes that stories like Cashe’s continue to inspire young Soldiers to work to be their best selves.
To young leaders, Brito hopes to show them the importance of reputation, something he said has been ingrained in him over the years. Reputation follows a Soldier wherever they go.
“If you’re not a genuine leader with a good reputation, your Soldiers will see right through you,” he said.
He also encourages Soldiers to take care of their work-life balance. If he could rewind and talk to 2nd lieutenant or captain Brito, that would be the advice he would need the most.
When he looks back at his career, he would do it again without a doubt in his mind. Taking the flyer from the ROTC booth that day was somewhat like fate he says.
“I just love what I do,” he said. “I reenlisted an NCO the other day and also enlisted four new troops. It inspires me every time that happens.”
Just as Soldiers continue to inspire him, he hopes by serving he can show young African Americans, who may be on the fence, that joining the Army could be a successful and beneficial career choice.
“Recognition of our history is a critical component of being an American,” Brito said. “I think observance of Black History Month is also important to recognize all those who have contributed to the rich history of the United States, especially for those who serve in the military.”
History continues to be written for the grandson of a Soldier, who fought in segregated units. As TRADOC serves a vital role in the Army People, Modernization, and Readiness efforts, its leader continues to be “very honored, humbled, and blessed to be here.”