“A Mighty Fine Pile of Rock”: An Engineer Officer On Building Infrastructure and Leaders

Clair Frederick Gill


MG(R) Clair Gill graduated from West Point in 1965 as an Engineer Officer. After a brief assignment to Ft. Bragg, he requested assignment to Vietnam, and served as a Platoon Leader, a Division Staff Officer, and Aide de Camp to BG George Blanchard. Returning from Vietnam, he attended the Engineer Officer Advanced Course and got married to his wife Sherry before attending U.C. Berkeley in 1969 for an advanced Engineering degree. Following graduate school, he deployed again to Vietnam, where he commanded a Construction Support Equipment Company, crushing rock for construction projects around the country. His next assignment was working on the Dean’s Staff at West Point. After additional schooling, he held commands in California, Germany, and Hawaii. Upon his retirement, he took engineering jobs in the Department of Energy and at the Smithsonian. In this interview, MG(R) Gill describes his experiences in Vietnam, Germany, and Hawaii, and many of the great leaders he encountered over the years. His description of his education, both in engineering and in understanding popular movements, particularly the student response at Berkeley to the U.S. incursion into Cambodia, is particularly revealing. Finally, he recounts an incident from Vietnam that illustrates the importance of candid communication up and down the chain of command.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Character Leadership Life After Military Military Family Morale Taking on a New Command USMA 1965 West Point History
interviewer Fred Laughlin
date 02 FEB 2016


name Clair Frederick Gill
institution USMA
graduation year 1965
service Engineer
unit B Co, 8th EN BN, 1st CAV; I Field Force; 103rd Engineer Co; 14th EN BN; 7th EN BDE
service dates 1965 1999