Dempsey Career Reflects Adaptability, Creativity
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
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.