Dempsey Meets With Airmen, Spouses at Minot Air Force Base
By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Thomas Dow
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D., Jun. 18, 2013 More than 1,000 airmen, spouses and local community members turned out here yesterday for a town hall meeting with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses airmen during a town hall meeting on Minot Air Force Base, N.D., June 17, 2013. The airmen are members of the 5th Bomb Wing and 91st Missile Wing. DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said he came to Minot because he wanted a chance to interact with those performing what he called "the vital work for our nation," noting that throughout the life of the B-52 and intercontinental ballistic missile force, there has been a history of silent, dedicated service, often in times of hardship and uncertainty.
The overarching topic of discussion for the chairman’s remarks was budget concerns, ranging from how sequestration spending cuts would affect the nuclear mission to whether or not airmens’ base pay will be cut.
But when it comes to readiness and the nuclear enterprise, Dempsey said, the United States “will never fail to do what is right. We will find the resources to do what is needed."
The Defense Department’s No. 1 priority is the defense of the homeland, he added, which means maintaining a credible and reliable nuclear deterrent.
"The nuclear enterprise is a top priority because it has kept us safe for the last 60 years," the nation’s top military officer said.
Dempsey also fielded questions from the audience relating to the isolated environment that airmen at Minot face on a daily basis. He regaled the audience about the three years he spent in the 1970s patrolling the West German border as a young lieutenant in a remote and austere environment, quite similar to what airmen experience in North Dakota. This gave him a sense of service and duty, probably before many of his U.S. Military Academy classmates, he said.
"There is something extraordinary about doing something above and beyond what others are doing," he said.
Dempsey also urged Minot airmen to maintain a balance of character and competence in their lives. "You need to wake up in the morning and think about how to be a better person," he said. "In our profession, you need to be able to count on the person to your left and right."
The chairman also assured the Minot audience that the issue of sexual assault in the military is receiving the attention it needs from Pentagon leaders.
"We are working this issue as hard as anything, and at the highest level," he said. As leaders consider changing the Uniform Code of Military Justice and changing policies to address the problem, he added, there is a need to get hold of the issue on the front end to change the climate that has permitted it to fester.
"What I need is the leaders at the tactical level to not accept [sexual assault]," he said.
Turning again to the defense budget, Dempsey said it is his responsibility to try to give civilian and military members a sense of certainty. Going year by year in the budget process causes uncertainty, he added, and the goal is to forecast budgets to allow service members to plan for the future.