Gen. Dempsey talks about trust

JCS Speech

West Point Class of 2013 500th Night

As Delivered by Gen. Martin Dempsey, West Point, NY Saturday, January 21, 2012

     GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY: “Thanks for that very warm welcome. Deanie and I always feel as though we’re coming home when we return here to West Point.”

“Tonight is really about the Class of 2013, how far you’ve come and the 500 days until you finally get to break free and put West Point in the rear view mirror.”


     “Put up the next image. This is another powerful place.  Some of you look a little confused maybe. That’s not West Point and you’re not missing some monument out there. [laughter]  But it is an extraordinary monument that at some time in your professional life, you should ensure you visit.
     It’s at Antietam. It’s a monument to the Private Soldier. The locals call it “Old Simon.” Exactly 150 years ago in 1862, the fate of the Republic was hanging in the balance and we fought a battle at Antietam. 23,000 casualties in a single day. The bloodiest day in American military history and it was fought on a space not much larger than the Plain.
     At Old Simon’s base, there are a few simple words that speak to the men and women who now he guards and share that battlefield with him. And those words are these, “Not for themselves, but for their country.”
     Your job in the Profession of Arms will always be challenging, it will often be dangerous, and it will sometimes be riddled with uncertainty.”
     “You’ve all heard that warfare is changing, technology is taking over, the Army is a thing of the past. But you know, the most sophisticated piece of warfighting equipment in this picture is this squad leader and he hasn’t changed all that much really since the days of the Roman legions. Politics are going to change, technologies will change, the enemy will change, but that squad leader won’t. And you as his leader can’t.”
     What the Profession of Arms requires of us first and foremost is trust. So let me speak to that picture for a second and ask you to emblazon it in your memory. 
     That squad leader is obviously serving in Afghanistan. He is operating because he trusts that that man or woman to his right flank, that rifleman, is protecting him while he does his job. And similarly, that rifleman who is oriented outward is confident and trusts that the squad leader has his back.  
     It doesn’t get any more fundamental than trust. And trust is built on confidence in each other. And confidence comes from recognizing the competence, the character, the quality of each of us. You’ve got to have it.
     The other thing about that picture is that squad leader—you can see in his eyes if you can see the picture clearly enough, the conflicting emotions that mark a battlefield—courage and fear, confidence and uncertainty. He’s on the radio and he’s calling for something. It could be close air support, could be medevac, could be additional guidance. I don’t know what it is. But whatever it is, you know that he’s going to get it and he knows that he’s going to get it. Because what makes us unique on the face of the earth is that as a military if you need something, we’re going to get it for you. You can trust in that.
     So that whole picture is an image of trust and trust is the very foundation of our profession. And if you’re not living up to earning your part of that equation, you’re not living up to being a member of the profession. 
     “That’s what this profession is all about. It will always be about that no matter how you get to the battlefield, whether you walk to it or drive to it or you jump into it, that’s the essence of our profession—trust. And you have time to understand that here in the 500 days remaining to you.”

“So if this profession is a compact between the leader and the led, what I’m telling you is that as the senior military officer in the United States of America, I trust you, the Class of 2013, to take care of this nation when your turn comes.”

For the entire transcript of General Dempsey’s speech, click here.


The Army Medical Department leadership on MEDEVAC issues has been sorely lacking over more than a decade. Despite being informed by its own officer corps of the urgent need for change in several areas, AMEDD leadership repeatedly failed to follow-up in a timely way. This was a breach of trust with the wounded soldiers it is obligated to provide with responsive, quality medical care. It is time for the AMEDD leadership to be held accountable in these matters.

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