Dempsey Career Reflects Adaptability, Creativity

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2011 — The man Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has cho­sen to be the next chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has 37 years of expe­ri­ence and a rep­u­ta­tion as a cre­ative thinker.
If con­firmed by the Sen­ate, Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, 59, will shift from serv­ing as the Army chief of staff to chair­man when Navy Adm. Mike Mullen steps down at the end of Sep­tem­ber. Dempsey has served as Army chief since April.

As a brigadier gen­er­al, Dempsey com­mand­ed the 1st Armored Divi­sion when it arrived in Bagh­dad in 2003. What was expect­ed to be a short deploy­ment was extend­ed when in April 2004, forces loy­al to Shi’a cler­ic Muq­ta­da al Sadr launched an insur­rec­tion against multi­na­tion­al forces and the nascent Iraqi gov­ern­ment. The 1st Armored, which was load­ing up to return to Ger­many, was extend­ed for 90 days. 

Dempsey’s per­for­mance dur­ing that hot spell earned kudos from retired Army Gen. Bar­ry McCaf­frey, who said in an Army Times inter­view that Dempsey “may be the best com­bat divi­sion com­man­der of the war over the last decade.” 

Fol­low­ing his divi­sion com­mand, Dempsey became com­man­der of Multi­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Command—Iraq, help­ing put in place the Iraqi army and police. He fol­lowed that with a stint as the deputy com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, step­ping up as act­ing com­man­der when Navy Adm. William Fal­lon resigned, and lat­er served as com­man­der of the Army’s Train­ing and Doc­trine Command. 

Dempsey was not just a care­tak­er com­man­der. “While serv­ing as act­ing Cent­com com­man­der, Gen­er­al Dempsey reor­ga­nized the head­quar­ters, pub­lished new the­ater strat­e­gy and cam­paign plans, all the while man­ag­ing the rota­tions and deploy­ments of tens of thou­sands of troops through­out his command’s [area of respon­si­bil­i­ty],” Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said in April dur­ing Dempsey’s instal­la­tion as the Army chief of staff. 

Dempsey was com­mis­sioned as an Armor offi­cer fol­low­ing grad­u­a­tion from the U.S. Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my at West Point, N.Y in 1974. He will be the first chair­man who is not a Viet­nam War vet­er­an since Army Gen. Lyman Lem­nitzer in 1962. 

Dempsey spent much of his career in Ger­many, train­ing in Air­Land Bat­tle doc­trine to stop a pos­si­ble Sovi­et inva­sion at the Ful­da Gap. Yet he also served as the train­ing advis­er for the Sau­di Ara­bi­an Nation­al Guard Mod­ern­iza­tion Program. 

Dempsey takes change in stride. In a round table dis­cus­sion with reporters after becom­ing Army chief of staff, the gen­er­al said he needs sol­diers to see that change is not some­thing to fear. 

“All this is rou­tine and his­tor­i­cal,” he said. “But to them it’s new. 

“I’m 59 years old, and I’ve heard this four times in my career,” Dempsey con­tin­ued, adding that he plans to issue a doc­u­ment that artic­u­lates some of that and calms the nerves of the force. 

“The Army has been around for 235 years, and though it does­n’t always look the same from decade to decade, it always pro­vides the things the nation needs when it needs it,” he con­tin­ued. “I per­son­al­ly think the Army ought to think of itself as an orga­ni­za­tion that will adapt about every five to sev­en years. It’s not just about new equip­ment, but new orga­ni­za­tions and structures.” 

The younger gen­er­a­tion embraces adap­ta­tion and change bet­ter than old­er gen­er­a­tions, he said, “and I’m going to test that theory.” 

In addi­tion to a bachelor’s degree from West Point, the gen­er­al also earned a master’s degree from Duke Uni­ver­si­ty in North Carolina. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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