Wednesday, 24 April 2013


Brigadier General Arnold N. Gordon-Bray can still remember what it was like to drink from different water fountains as a fifth grader growing up in then segregated Columbia, SC. Taking strong advice from his stepfather to strive for greater things, he went to college, became a military officer and climbed the ranks to lead thousands of soldiers of all races.

Gordon-Bray has served in the U.S. Army for 34 years. The former Mules basketball player graduated from UCM in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science degree in art, and upon earning his diploma, he was commissioned as an officer as part of the ROTC program. He has since earned a Master of Science degree in international strategic studies from Air War College in Alabama and a Master of Arts degree in national security and strategic studies from Naval War College in Rhode Island.

Gordon-Bray has served in the U.S. military throughout the world and earned numerous awards including two Bronze Star medals. He is currently deputy director of operations for the U.S. Africom, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, and is one of 340 general officers in an army of 1.4 million.

His career has included being brigade commander of the 82nd Airborne, serving in Iraq as the executive advisor to Iraqi Ground Forces, and service as the deputy commanding general of ROTC Cadet Command. He has twice led soldiers into combat in Iraq, with their lives, as well as the security of an entire region, relying on his leadership.

Gordon-Bray's career has enabled him to work with legendary military leaders such as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell, and Gen. David Petraeus, now director of the CIA. He said he stands on the shoulders of men like Henry Flipper, the first African-American to graduate from West Point and Gen. Roscoe Robinson, Jr., the first African-American four-star general.

For Gordon-Bray, the lessons learned at UCM came both on the basketball court and in the classroom. He found mentors who shaped his life in both places.

"Coach Tom Smith taught me lessons that became life lessons that I have used in my personal life and in battle," Gordon-Bray said. "In the community, Judge (Robert) Russell also believed in me. He was, and is, an advocate for athletes, and he remains a resource for me in life."

Gordon-Bray also fondly remembers the late Evelyn Louise Sims, professor emeritus of art, who mentored him as he completed his degree.

"When I think of her, I think of her encouragement, both to my talent and my potential. She saw the potential in me, and she refused to let me be any less than what she believed I could be," he said.

He also remembers the influence of Guy Griggs, professor emeritus of history.

"He recognized the times when I did not desire to study, and he made the connections between my family and my education. He knew my mother was a teacher. When the challenges seemed overwhelming, he reminded me that my mother completed her degree with six kids.