The Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, made his first visit to Iraq since being sworn in on April 11.

The general met with more than 70 service members in the Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory, April 20.

"I am proud of all of you," Dempsey said. "I am mostly proud of what you have done out here. The mission has changed several times and as Soldiers and leaders, you give the nation options."

"I am proud of how you team with the Iraqi partners to help them continue their development," he said.

After a few minutes of introduction and praises, he opened the floor to a question-and-answer session. The questions varied from the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy appeal, suicide, service member benefits and guard and reserve deployment status.

In response to a question about the Army's reduction of forces, Dempsey said "There is always expansion and contraction within the end-strength of the Army."

"We come from a long line of continuity," he said. "It is continuity that gives us the traditions and values that allow us to be who we are."

Dempsey said the Army will continue to change and he is concerned with the changes. He said it is up to the commanders, sergeants major, and leaders to develop trust within the organization and base the outcome off of that.

Following the question-and-answer session, Dempsey met with the media and told them that as the Army's top Soldier, he will work to balance the current demand requirements and conflicts.

When asked what he expected from the Soldiers, he said, "All I ask from them is trust, discipline, and to be fit." Come Dec. 31, Operation New Dawn will end and the question of whether U.S. presence will remain beyond that is left for the Iraqi government to decide, Dempsey said when asked about staying past the end of 2011.

"If asked we will deliver that presence," he said. "Iraq is a wonderful country and we will definitely be partnered in the future. The Army has to preserve the options for the nation to get things right to remain steadfast partners with the Iraqi counterparts."

However, as the U.S. departs, it will be the Soldiers who leave behind a legacy of partnering and professionalizing the Iraqi army to operate in the battlefield, Dempsey said. "I have confidence that they will sustain. Whether it's traditional or adaptive, we will continue to help them. Iraq will be the country that it wants to be."

Shortly before his departure, Dempsey made his final statement to the troops. "Keep doing what you're doing with your Iraqi partners and be the Soldiers you are," he said. "History will record your accomplishments here in Iraq as we continue to build a stable partner in the region."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16