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Army Change of Responsibility

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Fort Myer, Va., Monday, April 11, 2011

Earlier today, we said goodbye to a valued leader, George Casey.  This afternoon, we welcome a new Chief of Staff, General Marty Dempsey, who will lead America’s oldest military service, the United States Army, into the future.

First, I too would like to recognize the Dempsey family.  His wife, Deanie, who has endured all the endless moves and extended absences experienced by so many of America’s military families.  Thank you Deanie, you have been a real friend to military families and a stalwart advocate for our wounded warriors and I know you will continue to champion the Army family.  I’d also like to thank the Dempsey children for their service, Christopher, Megan and Caitlin, who all followed in their father’s footsteps and joined the Army.

I’ve known Marty for some years now.  He has always impressed me with his keen mind, strategic vision, quiet confidence and the energy he brings to every assignment. 

A real soldier-scholar, Marty earned a Masters in English from Duke University and then returned to West Point to teach English to young cadets.  But it was in the field, with mud on his boots and in the company of his beloved fellow soldiers, where General Dempsey truly shined.  His learning, training, and leadership experience prepared him for the challenges that awaited in Iraq.  First, as commander of the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad during the difficult initial year, then heading up Multi-National Security and Transition Command in 2005, where he stood up the Iraqi Army and police forces that played such a key role in the success of the surge.  

During his 36 years of active service, General Dempsey is one who has never been satisfied with the status-quo – a quality I have always looked for when selecting our military’s senior leaders.  That is one of the reasons I was so comfortable having General Dempsey assume the leadership of CENTCOM – as a three star – when the position unexpectedly became available in 2008.  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 AOR.

As leader of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, General Dempsey spread the gospel of adaptation in a world, where, as he is fond of saying: “Uncertainty is the only certainty in life in this century.”  He has pushed the Army to become more versatile and decentralized, and overhauled its approach to war-fighting, publishing a new capstone concept that elevates adaptation to an institutional imperative. 

Before recommending him to the President as the next Army Chief of Staff, General Dempsey and I had talked about some of the same questions I posed recently to the cadets at West Point: In a post-Iraq and eventually, a post-Afghanistan future, how does the Army right-size itself to address future threats while maintaining hard-won battlefield experience?  And, how will the Army keep, challenge and empower those bright, young, battle-tested officers returning home so they will be around to lead it into the future?

The Army’s force design study he began while at TRADOC will, I’m certain, find the answers to some of those questions I’ve raised.  When it comes to developing and retaining future Army leaders, General Dempsey understands that a complex and unpredictable world will demand yet more agility and more resilience from our young men and women in uniform.  In turn, the Army must continue to challenge these young NCOs and officers to help them develop personally and professionally.

I’m confident Marty Dempsey will bring the same passion and dedication to building the Army’s next generation of leaders and guiding its future transition as he has to every other position during his impressive career.  Marty, you truly are a soldier’s soldier and I know the Army is in able hands.

Thank you and god bless you all.

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