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BRIG. GEN. LARRY GILLESPIE
U.S. ARMY, RETIRED
Virginia
BRIG. GEN. LARRY GILLESPIE BRIG. GEN. LARRY GILLESPIE

HE MENTORS OFFICERS THROUGH 'THE ROCKS'

By Kristin Davis
Photo by Mike Morones

The group of Army officers who began gathering in the mid-1960s at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., had plenty in common.

'What it meant to me ... was providing guidance, leadership, and mentorship.'

“They were meeting informally, primarily just to help and support each other,” said Brig. Gen. Larry Gillespie, USA (Ret), chairman of the board of an organization now more than four decades old that helps mentor and support military officers.

When many of the officers received assignments at the Pentagon and the greater Washington, D.C., area, they continued to meet. By the fall of 1974, led by Brig. Gen. Roscoe Cartwright and Col. Robert B. Burke, they agreed to formalize the growing network.

After Cartwright died in a plane crash along with his wife, the group named itself The ROCKS and created the Roscoe C. Cartwright Scholarship Fund in his honor. Today, The ROCKS has 16 chapters and 1,200 members worldwide. Gillespie joined the organization just a few years after it was formalized.

“What it means to me now and what it meant to me back in those days was providing guidance, leadership, and mentorship,” he said. With Gillespie at its helm, The ROCKS helps guide ROTC cadets, junior officers, and others as they seek to advance their careers — and carries on the legacy of Cartwright, who provided nurturing guidance to young officers.

Gillespie grew up interested in flight and military life; his uncle was a member of the Golden 13, the first African American officers in the Navy.

He went to Officer Candidate School and then flight school. Soon he was flying gunships in Vietnam, where he served two tours. He retired in 2000 as assistant deputy commanding general of Army Materiel Command after 36 years of service. He went on to spend four years on the Defense Intelligence Agency Advisory Board, and today serves as chairman of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve in addition to chairman of the board of The ROCKS.

Today, Gillespie is most proud of his two tours in Vietnam, “for being able to carry out what I was assigned to do, and being able to save lives, and just serve the Army as I should.”

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This material originally appeared in Military Officer, a magazine available to all MOAA PREMIUM and LIFE members.

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