Chairman Addresses Deployed Sailors’ Concerns
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec. 14, 2012 Members of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Fifth Fleet, had the opportunity to voice their concerns during a meeting with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his senior enlisted advisor here yesterday.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, center, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanks sailors, their families and Defense Department civilians from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Fifth Fleet, during a stop on his annual holiday USO tour in Manama, Bahrain, Dec. 13, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, joined by Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, met sailors, families and Defense Department civilians, and provided them an opportunity to ask questions of their senior leaders during a meet and greet on his annual holiday United Service Organizations tour in the region.
“You're doing an incredible job,” Dempsey told the group. “We are really in 21-year conflict that started in this region in 1991 with Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
“We were deeply engaged in trying to keep stability in this part of the world,” the chairman continued. “And then, of course, along came 9/11, and many of the threats that created that challenge for our country emanated out of here.”
The chairman told service members assembled around him that they represent “the latest generation of young men and women who have answered the call, as your country has asked, to come and serve here. And you're really, really making us proud.”
Today there are “any number of challenges facing our nation,” Dempsey said, citing rising powers as well as the possibility of available technology and weaponry falling in to the hands of nonstate groups, making them “more dangerous than they really should be to us.”
“And then there's also our financial situation, which we share with many countries in the rest of the world,” he added.
The United States, however, will weather through today’s period of uneasiness, Dempsey said, as it has done before.
“We figure stuff out, even when we appear a little uncertain or unsettled,” the chairman said. “We will, at the end of the day, do what's right, and get it right 100 percent of the time.”
The chairman said the current generation of military leaders serving the nation at home, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the globe makes him confident of the future.
As long as leaders remain committed to the mission, to their own development as individuals, and to their families, Dempsey said, “I think we're going to be fine.”
The chairman also rebuked the notion that the U.S. military is in decline.
“It is not in decline and it will never be in decline,” Dempsey said. “We won't let it be in decline. It might get bigger some years and smaller in others; we might stretch part of the force more one time than another -- it always seems to level out over time.
“But like I said, we will figure it out -- I promise you that,” he continued. “So during this holiday season let me just tell you, ‘Thanks.’ And I wish you everything that could possibly come your way.”
Dempsey added, “However you chose to worship, I wish you all of the blessings that come, because you, more than anyone in our country, has earned those blessings. And I promise you, we will not forget that as we do our part of the fight back in Washington, D.C.”
Following his remarks, the chairman fielded questions from the audience on topics such as the future of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law which currently defines marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman.
“The Supreme Court did agree to take it up sometime between now and June,” Dempsey said. “[And] yes, we do have plans in place … if the law is repealed. We will put in place methods to ensure same-sex partners have the same benefits, if they're married, as a heterosexual couple will.”
However, he did note that the Defense Department is “bound by law” until the act is “repealed or overturned” by the Supreme Court.
On a question about future operations in Afghanistan, Dempsey said after the next two years, “the president has made clear, our war in Afghanistan will be over.” However, he added, “we'll be there in more modest numbers to support [Afghan security forces].”
Dempsey also addressed concerns about a change in the current military retirement system, and assured the audience that he, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, will keep faith with “anybody already in the system.”
The 18th chairman concluded his visit by serenading the crowd with a rendition of “Christmas in Killarney,” then wished everyone a “Merry Christmas.”