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Brig. General Thomas A. Gorry, commanding general, Marine Corps Installations East provides his personal outlook during an interview held in his office at Building 1 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Gorry assumed command of MCIEAST in July of this year.

Photo by Nat Fahy

MCIEAST's commanding general shares outlook on command's future, leadership lessons

12 Oct 2011 | Nat Fahy

For a man in charge of the seven Marine Corps installations that make up Marine Corps Installations East during a critical time in which defense spending is being dramatically cut, Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Gorry remains surprisingly calm and confident.

“The command’s in great shape,” he said during a recent interview in his office. 

Indeed, wedged between his attendances at a battery of conferences designed to help better equip him to lead MCIEAST over the next three years, Gorry has already visited nearly every base and station to get a firsthand look at some of the challenges facing this region.

“We are well positioned to support the many tenants on the bases,” he said. “The staffs have done a remarkable job and we’re well attuned to the issues that confront us. Everyone is fully engaged in supporting tenant agencies and forces to the utmost.” 

That said, the general made it clear there will be belt-tightening across the board and each of the installations will play a critical role in adjusting to the new reality.

“Are there challenges?  Absolutely. We’re facing cutbacks and a (two-year) civilian hiring freeze,” he remarked.  “We’re going to have to take a hard look at our priorities and look for efficiencies where we can find them.”

 All this as MCIEAST finds itself under the new management of Marine Corps Installations Command which activated Oct. 1 under the direction of Maj. Gen. James Kessler, former commanding general of Logistics Command.

According to Marine Administrative Message 575/11, the mission of the new command will be to act as the single authority on all installation matters. It will function to provide command and control of regional installation commands, establish policy, exercise oversight and prioritize resources in order to optimize installation support to the operating forces and tenant commands. MCIEAST, together with Marine Corps Installations West and Pacific will fall under this common banner.

Asked how he sees the new command relationships shaping up, Gorry is exceptionally confident this arrangement will be mutually beneficial.

“MCIEAST is going to offer (MCICOM) the granularity (it) needs,” he said.  “MCICOM will be able to leverage those key issues above and beyond my staff’s ability to focus on. As budgets get cut, there are going to be those dynamics – both foreseen and unforeseen – they can address with the commandant at the headquarters level.”

 Gorry brings with him a wellspring of experience serving with the supporting establishment and operational tours of duty, having been a Marine Expeditionary Unit Service Support Group commander, a camp commander in Okinawa, Japan and the J3 director for U.S. Forces Afghanistan. In fact,  Gorry and his family have spent the last 11 of the past 12 years overseas.

“I have an appreciation for what it takes to support the operating forces and their families,” he said. “It can be a very gratifying experience. When you provide a new infantry immersion training facility to help troops in combat, open an elementary school or a new chow hall like they’ve done here at Camp Lejeune. You’re seeing the direct fruits of a lot of hard work.”

As evidenced by the extensive rows of military history books that line the shelves behind his desk, Gorry has developed a lifelong passion for reading and professional military education.

“PME is directly related to your ability to function at a higher level. There is always something you can learn,” he said.

To that end, he has attended Amphibious Warfare School, Command and Staff College, and the National War College, National Defense University earning a Masters of Science Degree in Security Strategy.

 Gorry also said he has challenged himself to read a book a payday since he became a first lieutenant. 

“I got involved with a reading program early on and fell in love with military history,” he said.

During his previous assignment as the director of Command and Staff College he had direct input into the CMC’s Reading List.

Asked what his favorite book is, Gorry easily points to Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire,”a historic fiction novel that recounts the epic battle of Thermopylae and the bravery of the Spartans who were willing to give their lives in the service of democracy and freedom against millions of Persians.

“All Marines can relate to their warrior spirit,” he said. “There are so many leadership and training lessons you can find in the Spartans’ experience — the bonding and molding of the Spartan warriors, the team oriented outlook, dealing with death and the value of strong families.”

Gorry says he has always modeled his leadership style after the Spartan leader, King Leonidas. Taking a passage directly from the book, he read, “A king does not require service of those he leads but provides it to them. He serves them, not they him.”

To be sure, it seems Gorry has already taken a page from the great Spartan king.

“It’s a very humbling experience to be selected as a brigadier general. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve and to have the faith, trust and confidence of the senior executive leadership of the Marine Corps. I take that responsibility very seriously.”

Brig. Gen. Gorry is slated to be dual-hatted as the base commanding general of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune next summer.