— Gen. Martin E. Dempsey can sound like a high-tech entrepreneur instead of the incoming senior officer of the U.S. Army.
In a speech Monday, he drew words of wisdom from the innovative leaders of Google: Never settle.
Chatting later with reporters, he enthusiastically described how paging through printed field manuals or books of doctrine will be a thing of the past. Given time, he said, there will be an "app" for that.
From his desk at historic Fort Monroe, Dempsey has made it his mission to make the Army flexible, nimble and more adaptive to changing conditions.
That has taken on added importance in recent years with ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now U.S. military involvement in Libya.
Unfortunately, business is booming.
Since late 2008, Dempsey has commanded the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, which has 32 schools at 20 locations across the U.S. It trains more than 500,000 soldiers a year and serves as the future-thinking intellectual engine of the Army.
The command, headquartered at Fort Monroe, puts its stamp on everything from basic training to the ethics of robotic warfare.
Now Dempsey is headed to Washington, D.C., where next month he will become the 37th chief of staff of the Army, a position previously held by the likes of Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley.
In a formal departure ceremony Monday, the 59-year-old Dempsey bade farewell to his friends at Fort Monroe and paid homage to his fellow officers and civilian co-workers.
Hundreds of well-wishers packed the Post Theater to see the popular commander, who has successfully battled back from throat cancer and — just to prove it — led the theater in singing Happy Birthday to his wife, Deanie.
Also speaking was the outgoing Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who said the work done at TRADOC helped shape his own world view.
"What's going on in North Africa right now only confirms what you have been saying," Casey said, "that there's a lot of uncertainty and complexities out there, and this Army needs to be prepared for it."
Dempsey said he is confident that the U.S. can deal with the increasing number of hotspots around the globe as long as it has military leaders "who are thinking, creative, inquisitive and adaptable."
"We can't control those events," he said. "I think what we've got to do is be adaptable enough, clear enough, we have to be able to see ourselves well enough to react to these things."
Much of the work at TRADOC, although it deals with fundamentals of war fighting, does not make its way into the popular press. Casey noted several examples.
For the past nine months, the command has been leading a complete reexamination of the Army's force structure to make sure the service is the right size and design, and has the right mix of troops. And this year, TRADOC has begun to assess how the last 10 years of war-fighting have affected the service.
"The impacts of wars have changed us as individuals and professionals in ways we don't yet fully appreciate," said Casey.
Dempsey formally assumes his new duties on April 11, having won confirmation in the Senate. Selected to replace him is Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, currently serving as commanding general of Fort Hood, Texas.
Dempsey said he's looking forward to his new assignment, but he will reluctantly leave behind his stately digs at Fort Monroe.
"It's an extraordinary place to live," he said. "I'm probably the only guy in the Army who is going to move to be the chief of staff — and downsize."
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