Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff makes historic visit to Tuskegee University
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (February 24, 2012) — Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shared his vision for transforming the nation’s military with ROTC students at Tuskegee University on Tuesday. Dempsey said that the military of the future will need to change its focus to accommodate less forces needed to engage in Sept. 11-related conflicts and reduced military budgets.
“We don’t have to ask the nation to make a choice between economic security and national security,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey, the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to visit the university, spoke to students from all four ROTC programs (Army, Naval — Marine and Navy options — and Air Force) in the ballroom in the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Tuskegee University.
Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon said the visit was a “testament to Tuskegee’s rich military history” and an important way to help students learn about the array of opportunities available in the armed forces.
Dempsey said the military’s new focus will be on preventing conflicts while improving training.
“The challenge for all of us is to do what’s right for the nation,” Dempsey said. “We can only make it work if we’re all pulling.”
In remarks, Rochon said the university is committed to reinstating pilot training, and increasing aerospace engineering and remote sensing education.
“Tuskegee seeks to enhance its ROTC and to celebrate its rich history as the home of the Tuskegee Airmen,” Rochon said.
Honoring past heroes
Before speaking with ROTC students, Dempsey visited the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field. He and his wife, Deanie Dempsey, toured the site with Rochon and his wife, Patricia Rochon; retired Maj. Gen. Charles E. Williams, Tuskegee University Board of Trustees chairman; and other university and military officials. Dempsey said he felt compelled to visit the site because his son-in-law’s grandfather was a Tuskegee Airman and he wanted to see the place where the nation’s first black fighter pilots trained.
“Tuskegee has been sort of a magic place that I read about,” Dempsey said. “I wanted to come here and feel it, not just read about it.”
Dempsey and Rochon also paid tribute to an original Tuskegee Airman during his visit to the university. After addressing the ROTC cadets, they presented retired Lt. Col. Herbert E. Carter with an Outstanding Leadership Award.
During World War II, Carter served as a fighter pilot in the cadre of the 99th Fighter Squadron of the Tuskegee Airmen. He flew more than 70 combat missions during the war’s North African, Sicilian, Italian and European campaigns. After the war, Carter served as a professor of air science and commander of the Air Force ROTC Detachment 15 at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) and professor of aerospace studies. He also served as assistant dean for student services and associate dean for admissions and recruiting.
“Who will put their lives at risk? Who will work to help others? Col. Carter did that for his generation,” Dempsey told the audience during his speech.
After a question and answer session with several ROTC students, Dempsey, along with Rochon, presented Superior Achievement Awards to ROTC cadets: Shauvez D. Bennett (Naval, Marine-option), Leticia A. Hunt (Air Force), Raymond W. Lanphere (Naval, Navy-option) and Ranisha Joy Reese (Army).
During his speech, Dempsey demonstrated his objectives for the military’s future with a picture of soldiers in action that was meant to represent the theme of trust. The image also included Dempsey’s goals: “achieve our national objectives in the current conflicts, renew our commitment to the profession of arms and keep faith with our military family.”
He said the military requires a level of trust unlike any other profession and it is the foundation of serving this country. He described military service as living “an uncommon life” that is spent helping others. He urged the cadets in the audience to be competitive and daring in their service yet adaptable to change.
“Understand that you’re living history. Sometimes, history is thrust upon you,” Dempsey said. "What you do with it is what matters.”
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks to Tuskegee University President Gilbert L. Rochon and retired Maj. Gen. Charles Williams, Tuskegee University Board of Trustees chairman, at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site on Tuesday.
ROTC cadets stand at attention for the entrance of Dempsey and others in the official party at the event.
Original Tuskegee Airman retired Lt. Col. Herbert Carter, Deanie Dempsey, and Tuskegee University first lady Patricia Rochon listen to Dempsey’s address.
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