AAAA Family Forum / By Judy Konitzer: I was pleasantly surprised to be able to watch a live telecast from The Military Child Education Coalition’s (MCEC) 17th Training Seminar in Washington, DC on July 30-31. It featured a question and answer period with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army General Martin E. Dempsey, his wife Deanie, and 5 high school students.
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman GEN Martin Dempsey and his wife Deanie sing traditional Irish folk songs to and with military children (left to right) 15-year old, Raul Rosales IV from San Antonio, TX, 16-year old Katelyn Jensen from Falcon, CO, 17-year old Sara Lippert, from Dupont, WA, 17-year old Marislynn Turnmeyer from Panama City, FL, and 15-year old Hunter Hughes, from Falcon, CO, during the opening general session of The Military Child Education Coalition, 17th National Training Seminar. The seminar took place at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Washington D.C. 30-31 July 2015. / DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE PHOTO BY MARVIN LYNCHARD
With Dempsey scheduled to retire on September 25, 2015, I found it timely to hear their candid remarks.
The 2 day seminar gave attendees an opportunity to engage with senior military and education leaders about current issues (character development, systems of support, and academic innovations) relevant to military connected children during this period of significant changes and challenges.
Dempsey was asked “How do you define your success?” He responded that he was proud of being a Soldier, a husband, and a father, but having failures plays a part in every success. He reminded the students that while in high school they needed to keep doors open until they decided to close them. He said, “You can stumble, but don’t fall flat on your face!” When asked for a defining moment for him, he responded that about during the 18-19th year of his career, he contemplated retiring. It was his family’s passion and inspiration for the military that kept him from doing that.
Deanie was asked to describe her life as the wife of a prominent general and she responded with “Humbling.” For her it has been an honor to be an Ambassador for our country and to be able to represent our Service men and women and their families in their travels worldwide. She has also enjoyed being able to meet with families in the U.S. and abroad and hear first-hand about their problems, where they need assistance, and be able to influence and help in so many situations. Then, as General Dempsey concluded, “She talks about it all the way home,” when sometimes he would like to just close his eyes.
What about goals was another question posed by the students to Dempsey. He shared his passion for building teams and having a legacy that is not defined by just a piece of equipment, but by a commitment to the profession. “We’ve been given a gift to care for our Service members and their families and give them a purpose, a mission, and variety.” And he added, we want to” invest in their development from the time they come in until the time they leave and be fair to everyone regardless of ethnicity, gender, race, or religious beliefs.” When asked about having support systems, Dempsey defined his 3 pillars as the officers, NCOs, and most importantly the family. He shared that to accomplish your goals you need to have a balance in life and rely on these pillars.
I found it especially interesting when Dempsey was asked, “Do you have mentors?” He responded with “Mentors are an aggregate of those who inspire you and can illuminate the ideas you have for yourself.” He said he reaches out or is called upon at least once a week for either accolades or critiques by military leaders, as well as friends at UNC and Duke’s Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) whom he considers a “great friend because of the way he carries himself, his confidence, and his value system.” For him maintaining military and civilian relations, especially with the President and Congress, is challenging. His mentors help to center him.
A student asked, “What is lacking in education?” Dempsey felt that “leaders are readers and they have to keep learning and challenging themselves. What is learned in between will make the biggest difference.” Dempsey defined his biggest challenges as making sure that when we are asked to put Soldiers in harm’s way they are the “ best trained, best led, best equipped, and ready for what they are asked to do,” and finally being confident it will achieve the purpose, even if things sometimes don’t go as planned.
Dempsey praised the students for their willingness to participate and ended with leading all in singing “Green Alligators and Long Necked Geese!” I loved it as it brought back memories of our family performing it for the first time at Tommy Condon’s in Charleston the night before our daughter got married at the Citadel 22 years ago.
For more information about MCEC programs go to http://www.militarychild.org. To view the Dempsey’s complete telecast from the seminar and those of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Pacific Command Commander, Admiral Harry Harris, go to MCEC’s website and link to News and Events and 2015 National Training Seminar Highlights.