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Dempsey’s ‘Acting’ Career Ends as Centcom Turns Over to Petraeus

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Oct. 31, 2008 – Army Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey’s “acting” career is over.

Dempsey turned over command of U.S. Central Command to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus during a sun-drenched ceremony at Memorial Field here today.

As CentCom’s deputy commander, Dempsey took over as acting commander following the retirement of Navy Adm. William J. Fallon in March. He will receive his fourth star and assume command of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., and was succeeded today as CentCom’s deputy commander by Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John R. Allen.

Dempsey paid tribute to the more than 250,000 American servicemembers and civilians serving in the command, which stretches from Kazakhstan to Egypt and includes two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said they are “far from home, often in harm’s way, uncomplaining; representing both the resolve and compassion of this great nation.”

“As a nation,” he said, “we have been blessed by their service, and I have been blessed to be part of their team.”

The area the command covers presents the United States with challenges that sometimes seem unsolvable, he said. “Yet it offers us opportunities to solve many, and perhaps even most, of the world’s perplexing problems,” he said.

While the vast majority of people in the region have aspirations much like those of Americans, violent extremists in the region have declared war on the American way of life, Dempsey said.

“And so, CentCom is a command at war,” he said. “It is also a command committed to promoting peace. We relentlessly pursue our enemies while simultaneously conducting disaster relief, training with our coalition and regional partners and protecting the global commons at sea and in the air.

“There is always an honest day’s work to be done at U.S. Central Command,” he said.

The command’s trademarks are teamwork, partnership, sacrifice and resolve, Dempsey said. “CentCom is a team of teams,” he said. The command teams with other nations, other agencies and – at home – with Tampa, he noted.

“Most of what gets done well in our government gets done through the trust and confidence that comes with partnership,” Dempsey said. “As partners, we demonstrate every day that in matters of security, the whole really is stronger than the sum of its parts.”

The men and women of CentCom “understand that there are things in this world – like freedom – worth the sacrifice necessary to achieve and then preserve them,” the general said.

Dempsey described visiting Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan in December and speaking with the U.S. leader about his 20-man detachment’s fight against 50 or 60 Taliban the night before.

“There were several inches of snow on the ground,” he said. “The troopers were living in sandbagged metal containers at 8,000 feet and most of their supplies had to be brought in by helicopter because the road network had been mined by the Taliban – a tough and important mission being performed superbly by a tough group of soldiers.”

Those soldiers and their fellow servicemembers around the region are brave and proud, and they accept the sacrifices America’s asks of them, Dempsey said.

“I’ll tell you one other thing: Nobody is getting through that pass … or through any other outpost where young Americans stand watch for our freedom,” he said.

Petraeus thanked Dempsey for his service as acting commander and said he is ready for the challenges presented by the region.

“Indeed, from transnational extremist organizations and industrial strength insurgencies, to weapons proliferation, a rise in piracy and persistent ethno-sectarian conflict, the CentCom area contains innumerable challenges,” Petraeus said.

And the solutions to these challenges require comprehensive approaches that employ the whole of the U.S. government’s capabilities, he said, and close coordination with host country and coalition governments and security forces.

“This is necessary not just to resolve pressing short-term issues but to address – over time – the underlying conditions that give rise to such serious security challenges,” he said.

The road ahead will be tough, but the mission must be accomplished, Petraeus said.

“It’s clear that in the months and years ahead, a great deal of responsibility will continue to rest on the shoulders of the wonderful men and women of the coalition countries serving in harm’s way in the Central Command area of responsibility, and it is an honor to serve with them again,” he said.

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Gen. David H. Petraeus

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