Dempsey Settles in as Chairman Behind MacArthur’s Desk
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2011 Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took some time today, his first Monday on the job, to speak with Pentagon reporters.
The session was off the record, but it yielded some insights about the 18th chairman his staff agreed could be made public.
-- Individual military awards and honors are represented by ribbons worn on the left side on the uniform. Dempsey’s official portrait shows eight rows of such awards, but the chairman wears only two rows. These are his joint awards and his highest Army awards, he said. Dempsey will wear his full complement of ribbons for official ceremonial occasions, but otherwise prefers to follow the precedent set by Gen. George C. Marshall, former Army chief of staff, secretary of state and the third secretary of defense. A World War I hero, Marshall helped to run World War II from Washington and wore only one row of ribbons, Dempsey said, as a reminder to look ahead at coming challenges rather than back at past achievements.
-- Speaking of Marshall, Dempsey has an original oil painting of the general -- recovered from “some repository” of historical military art and objects -- in his office. The painting is larger than life-size and hangs so that the chairman can see it clearly from his desk.
-- The desk in Dempsey’s office, which looks to measure at least a hefty 4 by 6 feet, is the same one Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur used in the Philippines during World War II. In his office at home, the chairman said, he has a desk formerly used by Army Gen. Omar Bradley, the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
-- On MacArthur’s desk is an item distinctly Dempsey’s: a wooden box that holds laminated cards the chairman had made when he commanded 1st Armored Division during its 2003-2004 deployment to Iraq. The cards each bear the photo, personal and family information for a division solider killed in action there. The box has “Make it matter” carved on its lid. This, Dempsey said, was the phrase he used to console grieving troops during the memorial services for their fallen fellow soldiers.
-- Dempsey said that after he was confirmed as chairman but while still serving as the Army chief of staff, he visited the economics department at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He was seeking expert opinions to help him manage effectively in what Pentagon leaders have for more than a year called a “constrained budget environment.” Dempsey heard from senior economics professors, as well as “young majors” with doctorate degrees fresh from the London School of Economics and from Georgetown University here. The visit was interesting and informative, Dempsey said, and each expert had an opinion as to how best to tackle budget issues. As the Defense Department’s budget strategy unfolds, the chairman said, it will, in part, be “art, not science.”