WASHINGTON — An Army officer emerged from a field of more than 700 applicants to earn a spot in a program designed to give participants hands-on experience with the inner workings of the government.
Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, a Jefferson City, Mo., native and U.S. Military Academy graduate, was chosen, along with 12 doctors, lawyers and other professionals, to spend a year working for senior White House staff, Cabinet secretaries or other top-ranking government officials in the White House Fellows program.
Dempsey, who holds a doctorate in political science, said it was a “tremendous honor” to be chosen.
“The process was much more difficult than I thought it would be,” he said, “but also much more rewarding.”
During the six- to nine-month selection process, Dempsey said, he was required to write five or six essays and a recommendation for government action, and to participate in a series of interviews.
“Had I not been included in that final 13, I would not have felt bad. … It was just a phenomenal group of people,” he said.
Dempsey, a published author, said he wrote “Soldiers, Politics and American Civil-Military Relations,” to dispel some common stereotypes about the Army. The book is aimed at both the American public, who might not have a lot of contact with military members, and the Army, he said.
“There’s always tension in civil-military operations,” he added.
Two key stereotypes of the Army are that it is overwhelmingly Republican and that all soldiers are hyperpolitical, Dempsey said. However, he explained, his findings in a comprehensive study during his doctoral dissertation revealed that political persuasions in the Army as a whole are not far removed from those of the general population.
“The Army mirrors the American public almost exactly in terms of ideological self-identification,” Dempsey said. “One primary purpose of the book was to show the public, ‘This is who your Army is, and they are not as divorced or different from you as you may have been led to believe.’”
He also said he wrote the book as a touchstone for senior officers.
“It’s a call for officers to balance their personal lives with their obligations as commissioned officers,” he explained.
Dempsey said he doesn’t yet know where he’ll be working during his fellowship, but that the idea is to ‘get you out of your comfort zone.’ He said he hopes to gain knowledge that will help Army leadership face future decisions.
“The Army is faced with some tremendous challenges. … We are going to need more than the traditional Army skill set to deal with them,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)