COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Throughout the year but especially during Black History Month, the Army honors African-American soldiers - who make up 23 percent of those enlisted and 11 percent of the officer corps, but only six percent commissioned into combat arms.
That includes Major General Gary Brito, who’s making history on Fort Benning.
"Very humbled, very honored, and I’d be less than honest if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous when I knew that was indeed a fact,” said Brito, Fort Benning’s commanding general.
He’s talking about being the first ever African-American commanding general of Fort Benning, in 100 years of the Army post. Brito said he stands on the shoulders of paratroopers, rangers, and soldiers who came before him. He hopes to increase the number of minorities in military leadership roles.
“Combat arms needs leaders of all ethnicities and genders as well, and soldiers in formation deserve to see people that look like them, and they may want to emulate them as well,” Brito said. “Despite the religion, race, or gender you may be, the foundation is the principles we work for--- the Army values, and the oath each one of us has taken.”
In 1987, Brito was commissioned as an infantry officer through ROTC. His first assignment was as a lieutenant at Fort Benning, where he also completed ranger school and eventually served in multiple positions.
“I’m inspired by many that serve today, many that have served in the path, Colin Powell being one of them," said Brito. "I had the opportunity to meet him here on Fort Benning.”
After more than 31 years in the Army, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Brito was asked to give words of encouragement for others serving the country.
“Really have the passion you put into your job, embrace it 1,000 percent," Brito said. Always make the organization better. Be the best leader you can be for those soldiers in your formation, and it’s going to work out for you.”
He said it means a lot to him to be an African-American leading the way on Fort Benning. Brito said he hope to leave something to be inspired for in the future.”
Brito has a bachelor’s degree from Penn State University, a master’s degree in human resource management from Troy University, and a second master’s degree from the Joint Advanced Warfighting School.