Fort Leavenworth President Barack Obama's pick to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told officers graduating Friday from the Army's Command and General Staff College to remain curious about the world as they begin their new leadership roles.
Gen. Martin Dempsey has been nominated to replace Adm. Mike Mullen, whose term is ending. He delivered the keynote address to the 1,038 U.S. and international officers completing a 10-month course in advanced military training at Fort Leavenworth.
"The challenges we face don't get any easier," Dempsey said.
He said Albert Einstein once claimed he didn't have any special talents but was passionately curious and questioned everything. Dempsey said the officers should try to bring a similar passionate curiosity to the challenges they'll face going forward.
"A shared risk that is yours and mine is if we don't deliberately nurture curiosity, build on it and seek it as an attribute of our subordinates, we could inadvertently squash it," Dempsey said.
In his brief remarks, Dempsey encouraged the officers, who come from all branches of the military, to create a culture of trust, discipline and fitness in their new assignments. He encouraged them to leave "white space on the calendar" and introduce a bit of chaos in their subordinates' training to help foster adaptability.
"You are the man or the woman for your subordinates," Dempsey said.
The general said that on this date in 1752 Benjamin Franklin conducted his lightning experiment, capturing electricity in a glass jar. Dempsey said while perhaps not putting their lives in the same potential danger, officers should be willing to take risks to develop their own skills and those of their subordinates.
He didn't say much about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he did note that many of those in the class had faced multiple deployments and were still living with the effects of combat. He said new issues have arisen since the officers began their course of study last summer, calling them new storms that would require greater understanding.
"We trust that you are ready to take the next step and confront the next set of challenges that you will face," he said.
Dempsey began a four-year term as Army chief of staff on April 11. He still faces a confirmation hearing in the Senate for the Joint Chiefs chairman job.
Dempsey was commander of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command from 2008 through 2011. He also was commanding general of the 1st Armored Division, U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army from 2003 to 2005.