Well, that was fast. A couple of days ago, Marine General James “Hoss” Cartwright was reported to be a shoe-in to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Meanwhile, Army General Marty Dempsey was still finding his way around his new office as that service’s chief of staff (he’s only been there a little over a month).
But lightning never strikes slowly. So get this: instead of a tough-talking Marine as the nation’s top military officer, we’re slated to get an Army officer — with a master’s in English from Duke. English has often seemed a second language for most Army officers, so we look forward to his erudite comments, assuming Senate confirmation, when he takes over this fall.
As we suggested Wednesday, President Obama will nominate Dempsey as the nation’s top military officer next Tuesday, according to the nearly-always reliable Bob Burns of the AP. Cartwright is expected to retire soon; Air Force General Nordy Schwartz, the Air Force’s top officer, is expected to take Cartwright’s post. Army General Ray Odierno is the front-runner to be tapped as the Army’s next chief of staff.
Dempsey is well-regarded in Army circles for his service in Iraq; Cartwright, despite his many attributes, saw no combat command in either Iraq or Afghanistan. That gap – some saw it as an unbridgeable canyon – in his CV peeved some folks in uniform, who felt that any chairman from either the Army or the Marines should have that background. You can get a glimpse of Dempsey, a 1974 West Point graduate, from the “What’s I’m like” talking points he issued when he became Army chief of staff:
Every morning on the way to work, I walk past the pictures of all the former Chiefs, and then I drive past row after row of the headstones in Arlington National Cemetery. If you find me eager to get things done, that’s why.