Retired Lt. Gen. Richard Trefry Dies

Retired Lt. Gen. Richard Trefry Dies

Ret. Lt. Gen. Richard Trefry
Photo by: Scott Henrichsen Photography

Retired Lt. Gen. Richard Trefry, a veteran of World War II and Vietnam who spent 33 years in uniform and a longtime senior fellow of the Association of the U.S. Army, has died. He was 98.

“He was a remarkable Army officer with a long career stretching from World War II into the President George H.W. Bush administration, always proving himself to be a thoughtful leader and guide,” retired Gen. Bob Brown, AUSA president and CEO, said about Trefry. “We were very fortunate to have him as a member of the AUSA family. He’ll be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on and guide future generations.

Born in August 1924, Trefry began his Army career as an enlisted soldier, serving during World War II before attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Commissioned in 1950 as a field artillery officer, he served in Germany, Vietnam and Laos. Among his assignments was commanding an artillery battalion in Vietnam and later leading the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group in Laos and serving as defense attaché to the country, where he contributed to the defeat of a coup d’état by exiled Laotian air force officers.

In the mid-1970s, Trefry served as the assistant Army deputy chief of staff for personnel, responsible for overseeing changes in the honor system at West Point after it was rocked by a cheating scandal.

In his final active-duty assignment, Trefry spent six years as the Army inspector general, revolutionizing general inspections and making management improvements. “By encouraging openness and a commitment to identifying problems and fixing them at the appropriate level, he had a profound positive effect on the readiness of the Army and the morale of its soldiers and subordinate leaders,” the West Point Association of Graduates said in a 2006 statement when Trefry was named a distinguished graduate.

“His impact was felt especially in the area of nuclear technical proficiency inspections where the goal of the inspection shifted from affixing micro blame to correcting macro processes. He accomplished all this by spending a great deal of time in the field, speaking with those who were the end users of the vehicles, weapons, ammunition, and other materiel of the Army and who would be tasked to employ them in the event of armed conflict.”

Just last April, Trefry addressed more than 200 Army inspectors general virtually during the service’s annual Worldwide Inspector General Conference. “The principal function of an inspector general is to be the best teacher in the Army at whatever level he or she is serving,” Trefry said, according to an Army news release.

He retired from the Army in 1983.

Trefry spent two years, beginning in 1990, as director of the White House Military Office and the military assistant to President George H.W. Bush.

 In 1995, he was founder and program manager of the Army Force Management School.

The Army in 2009 created and named a lifetime of service award after Trefry. The inaugural Lt. Gen. Richard G. Trefry Lifetime Service Award was presented to Trefry himself for his service in the Army and his accomplishments as a civilian. “I am deeply honored, and I was completely floored when they told me they were going to do this,” Trefry said at the time.

In retirement, he served as an AUSA senior fellow since 1984, and he was an officer and board member of Army Emergency Relief and a member of the Army War College Alumni Association.

He frequently taught and spoke on topics related to the Army profession.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Army Emergency Relief.