After a decade at war, the Army must transform itself to better face the challenges of the future, the general taking the helm of America's ground force said Monday, telling soldiers he will lay out a plan for the future in two months.
Gen. Martin Dempsey said the all-volunteer Army is in transition and must evolve and hone new expertise in order to be ready for adversaries the U.S. will face in 2020 and beyond.
"This particular transition is somewhat unique in that we have persevered through a decade of war with an all-volunteer force," Dempsey told a crowd of family, friends and military during a ceremony at Fort Myer in northern Virginia. He took over as Army chief of staff as Gen. George Casey retired after four years in the top job and more than four decades in the service.
Dempsey said he will work with other military leaders to put out a document by June 14 that charts the way ahead and addresses how the Army can design units and prepare soldiers to face future enemies.
The 1.1 million-strong ground force that Dempsey is taking over is strained after 10 years of long and repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. During their short stints at home, soldiers have battled stress disorders and a complex array of wounds and brain injuries. Suicide rates have increased.
Under Casey, the Army grew to accommodate the grueling deployment schedules. But Dempsey likely will have to pare down and restructure his force. Officials have said they will begin to scale back the size of the Army as troops slowly withdraw from Iraq, and eventually from Afghanistan.
In one of the ceremony's lighter moments, Dempsey alluded to Defense Secretary Robert Gates' well-known desire to leave the Pentagon's top job and retire to the Pacific Northwest _ which he has said he would do later this year after about four years on the job.
"I'm not sure what it means that I have changed jobs four times and that, in that time, you've remained in one job," said Dempsey, who recently served as head of Army Training and Doctrine Command and previously was acting head of Central Command. "It seems as though one of us can't hold a job, and the other can't seem to shake his."
Dempsey also served tours at the warfront, leading the multinational training effort in Iraq and commanding the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad.