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The 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey addresses Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and civilians at a town hall meeting in hanger 20 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 25. More than 600 military and civilian members listened to his goals and challenges for the Department of Defense. General Dempsey took question from the audience following his remarks. (U.S. Air Force photo/Steve White)
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Chairman of Joint Chiefs delivers message of hope in uncertain times to Alaska military community

Posted 10/26/2011   Updated 10/26/2011 Email story   Print story


by Luke Waack
JBER Public Affairs

10/26/2011 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Gen. Martin Dempsey, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, landed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska Tuesday with a message of hope for the military community.

The newly appointed chairman held a town hall meeting in an aircraft hangar with more than 600 service members, family members and civilians.

The uniformed personnel were made up of active-duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Soldiers, as well as members of the Coast Guard, all of whom work, train and deploy from JBER.

"Just think of who you are and what you've done," Dempsey said. "I came on active duty right after Vietnam. In the late 80s, we were thinking about 'I wonder if we can really do what we say we can do, I wonder if we have courage. I wonder if our families have resilience.'"

Service members and families can be proud of what they've accomplished over the last 10 years of conflict, Dempsey said.

"You know who you are and what you've done and you know the qualities you have to include courage, resilience, resolve, commitment, teamwork and most important--trust," the chairman continued.

Dempsey used the example of a pararescueman serving in Afghanistan to illustrate how important trusting one another is to success in the future.

"What gets me through the day is you," Dempsey said. "You've been through a lot tougher stuff than what we're going to face in the next couple years."

Dempsey spoke of Silver Star nominee and Alaska Air National Guard pararescueman, Master Sgt. Roger Sparks, of the 212th Rescue Squadron, 176th Wing, hanging off of a cable in the middle of a fire fight off of the sheer edge of a mountain in the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan.

"Why is he hanging off that cable," Dempsey asked. "Not for himself.

He's hanging off that cable because he understands, if we trust each other and we care about each other we can get through anything."

Dempsey took questions from the audience on a wide range of topics.

"Tell me something about yourselves, tell me what's on your mind, tell me how I can help and I'll be as candid as I can with you in scoping where I think we are and where we may be going," Dempsey said.

The first question was asked by a Soldier concerned with potential plans to replace the military pension with a 401K retirement fund system.

"Both the Secretary (of Defense, Leon Panetta) and I have said publicly and privately and frequently that we believe anyone currently serving should get the retirement benefit that they signed up to get when they signed up to get it."

Another audience member asked about potential cuts to family programs.

"We've got to figure out which of the programs that you think and your peers are most important," Dempsey said, encouraging military community members to speak up for their favorite, most effective programs in DoD surveys.

Dempsey thanked the families present for their sacrifices in the past decade of conflict.

"We are attuned to what we've asked this force - and notably the force's families - to do over the last 10 years."

The chairman expressed his pride in the many accomplishments of the service members and their families.

"I hope you feel as good about what you're doing, as we feel about what you're doing," Dempsey said. "And just keep that image in mind of that pararescue trooper hanging off that cable. If he can hang off that cable, we can figure the rest of this out, and if you spouses can stick with us the way you've stuck with us for the last 10 years, we're going to be fine."

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