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Dempsey Encourages NDU Grads to Build Relationships

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2012 – The military’s senior officer today welcomed nearly 700 U.S. and international students from the National Defense University back into the fighting force and encouraged them to build relationships for success.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered the commencement address to an audience of over 3,000 people, including 696 students at Fort Leslie J. McNair here.

“It is a distinct honor to be here today to help launch you into the rest of your careers,” Dempsey said. “A career that I can’t predict for you – you can’t predict for yourself, but one which will certainly challenge you.”

The institution’s mission is to support the joint warfighter by providing rigorous Joint Professional Military Education to develop leaders that can operate and think creatively in an unpredictable and complex world.

Dempsey, himself a 1996 graduate of NDU’s National War College, said he believes the nation is in good hands thanks to the students, staff and faculty of NDU. 

“I say that because of the men and women I see passing through the doors of this great place – the National Defense University,” he said. “We’re going to ask a lot of you; you’ll deliver.”

The chairman encouraged the students to network and focus on building relationships since half of the class is comprised of representatives from more than 60 other countries. “President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once wrote, ‘if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all people of all kinds to live together in the same world at peace,’” Dempsey said.

“As senior leaders, you’ll find it increasingly important to practice the science of human relationships,” he said. “As you become involved in making strategy, you’ll need to nurture relationships to make that strategy work.”

Dempsey said it’s also important for the students to teach their subordinates to build relationships and provide them with opportunities to grow.  The chairman used Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya as an example of the need to establish relationships and the positive outcome.

“In many ways, the Libya campaign was an object lesson in the value of military to military relationships,” he said. “In all, as you know, 18 militaries contributed to that joint and allied effort saving untold thousands of lives.”  “It’s worth noting,” Dempsey said, “although the force over Libya came together quickly, the relationship that produced it didn’t develop overnight.”

The chairman stated the relationships built in Operation Odyssey Dawn were a “product of years upon years of working together at every level, across every service, with many countries.” Dempsey pointed to an experience at last month’s NATO Summit in Chicago where one of his counterparts praised the National Guard’s State Partnership program as an example of the importance of building and maintaining relationships.

“He told me that he appreciated the world class training and equipment,” Dempsey said. “But he said what made the program was the familiarity and trust that flowed from it as it evolved over time.”

The foreign defense officer, Dempsey said, has worked with the same group of officers for the past 20 years, progressing from major to major general.

“Sowing the seeds of trust, early and often, can bear a harvest that is well worth the labor,” he said. “You can’t just phone it in. You have to dig in and get your hands dirty. We certainly have learned this over the past decade.”

Dempsey said in his judgment, the most important relationship underpinning the nation’s success is between “those serving on the front lines and those who remain on the home front.”

“The people we serve may not always know what to say or how to say it, but one thing is clear to me – they care about you,” he said. “They want to connect with you. Your story is their story too. So go tell it. Have the courage to tell it again and again with humility and honesty.”

“So as you leave here today, I encourage you to take onboard the responsibility to grow relationships,” Dempsey said. “Put that tool prominently in your leadership tool box.”


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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

Related Sites:
National Defense University
National War College

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