I’m from a small town in north central
Georgia. I had no desire to go to college. My
test scores and out-of-school escapades
suggested I was not college material and
I was content pursuing a construction job
framing houses. It wasn’t until after I went
to a fraternity party with a friend that I
decided to tell my father I wanted to attend
West Georgia College. I think we were both a
little skeptical, but I went.
In early ’85, a Marine Officer Selection Officer (OSO)
gave a recruiting pitch at my fraternity and I was interested. However, after a quick screening, he suggested
I speak to the enlisted recruiter. I did and signed up
for the Reserves and graduated from Parris Island that
summer. After returning, I connected with a new OSO,
who apparently saw previously unseen potential, and
I was accepted for a commissioning program. After six
years of college, I was commissioned, went on to The
Basic School (TBS) and became an infantry officer.
I make a point to mention my early years because
they were defining times for me. The Marine Corps
changed my life (for the better) and I have spent my
career trying to take care of the Marines and Sailors I
have been honored to serve with and the organization
that took me in.
I started out with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, and
was fortunate to command infantry units through the
battalion level and gained a wealth of experience in nine
operational deployments: Just Cause, Desert Shield and
Storm, Assured Response and multiple deployments in
support of Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
As a colonel in Afghanistan, I was a counterin-
surgency (COIN) adviser and the director of Strategic
I have been to combat six times, completed a
tour on the drill field and still have nightmares from
my time commanding Recruiting Station Nashville.
Recruiting was hands down the hardest thing I have
ever done and it’s amazing I didn’t get relieved. Lucky
for me, I wasn’t and would eventually be promoted to
brigadier general and serve as the assistant division
commander for 2nd Marine Division before arriving at
the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) in
For someone who started off academically challenged,
I have often found myself in academic environments.
After being selected for regimental command, I was
redirected to lead TBS and, prior to that, graduated from
Expeditionary Warfare School, was a student and later
a faculty adviser at our Command and Staff College and
earned a degree from the Marine Corps War College. I
was also assigned to the Institute for Defense Analyses
and the Council on Foreign Relations, both heavily academic organizations.
Today, I still find myself among smart folks. I am
the commanding general of the MCWL, director of our
Futures Directorate, vice chief of the Office of Naval
Research and advocate for science and technology for
Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, deputy commandant, Combat
Development and Integration, and Gen. Robert Neller,
commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC).
MCWL is all about the future. Our job is to figure
out how the Corps should be organized, trained and
equipped for the future fight. We are at the front end
of the capability development process.
Our Futures Assessment Division looks out 15 to 30
years. Their work paints the picture of how we view
the future operating environment (FOE). Our outlook
has become more complex with the emergence of
near-peer and irregular warfare threats.
Our Concepts and Plans Division studies the
Brig. Gen. Julian D. Alford
MARINE CORPS WARFIGHTING LABORATORY