Lt. Gen. Robert E. Gray was a soldier first, then a leader.
That’s why Maj. Gen. LaWarren Patterson said it’s only fitting that Fort Gordon’s new machine gun range is named for Gray.
Visiting generals and Gray’s family were among those at the dedication ceremony at Freedom Park on Thursday.
Gray blazed many trails, said Patterson, the commanding general of the Signal Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon.
Gray was the first black commanding general of Fort Gordon, serving in that role from 1991-94. Fort Gordon grew under his command, despite base realignments and budget cuts that shrank or closed many other military bases. He led the largest revision of enlisted jobs in Signal Corps history, including changes to 47 occupational specialties and the creation of new specialties, and he was instrumental in reorganizing the signal schools to train soldiers for a digital Army, Patterson said.
Gray left Fort Gordon to become deputy commanding general in Europe, the first general from a noncombat Army branch to serve in that position. He died in 2011 in a car wreck.
The new gun range will fill a critical training gap at Fort Gordon by allowing soldiers to prepare for combat at their home base. It will save time and resources and reduce safety risks involved in transporting soldiers from Fort Gordon to the nearest heavy machine gun training facility, at Fort Stewart in Savannah, Ga.
The facility will be fully automated and offer soldiers immediate feedback on their performance. It will include 98 stationary infantry targets, 24 moving infantry targets, 20 stationary armor targets and 10 firing lanes.
Patterson said the range will add to the long list of features that make Fort Gordon a “national strategic asset.”
“The Lt. Gen. Robert E. Gray Multipurpose Machine Gun Range will be a place where the signal warriors of today and tomorrow can prepare for the challenges that he saw from his vantage point atop our regiment,” Patterson said.
Frances Gray-Head said her father was always concerned about his soldiers and was well-loved by everyone who knew him.
She said she and her mother, Annie Gray, appreciate the outpouring of support from Fort Gordon and the Augusta area since Gray’s death.
“There are no words to express how much we appreciate all of that, and it just continues to show us how much he was appreciated here,” Gray-Head said.