Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

My essay from this past week, “The Decay of the Profession of Arms,” drew some criticism – which was entirely expected (and appreciated).  One thoughtful response in particular – from a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense – caught my eye.  So much so that I actually called him on the phone and we talked about the individual in question from the essay (General Alfred Gray).

I stand by the quotation that I used in the essay – but fully acknowledge that one comment does not describe the sum total of an individual’s contribution to the Profession of Arms.  As such, please consider the comments below from Mr. MItchell Shivers (currently a Senior Fellow with the American Security Project).

-Major Matt Cavanaugh, Editor

Dear MAJ Cavanaugh,

I read, with interest, your piece titled, “The decay of the Profession of Arms”. I agree with much of your premise and believe the “decay” that you note needs correcting in our military.

However, I believe you have done an injustice to General Al Gray of the Marines. You cite Lloyd Matthews recalling Gray’s complaint that there were, “too many intellectuals in the military” and it needed more “old fashioned gunslingers”.

Your quotes, taken out of context, imply that Gray was, at best, indifferent about the formal study of the “Profession of Arms.” That is not so.

To the contrary, Gray, as head of the Marines in 1988, established the “Commandant’s Reading List” – the first service-wide professional reading list meant to stimulate a more sophisticated study of war and the military profession.  While voluntary, the “List” soon became more or less obligatory for any Marine officer wishing to advance.  Later, after his retirement, Gray’s leadership in advancing the study of war was recognized when the “Alfred M. Gray, Jr. Research Center” was dedicated as the centerpiece, and most prominent facility, at the Marine Corps University at Marine Corps Base, Quantico (Gray had previously organized the Corps’ most advanced professional schools as the Marine Corps University and is considered its founder).


Mitchell Shivers

Adjunct Senior Fellow

American Security Project

Washington, DC