MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he didn't come to Minot Air Force Base because of any recent issues, but he was here to learn about the base and its people.
Dempsey is the nation's highest ranking military officer.
He spoke at a town hall meeting late Monday afternoon before a large crowd of mainly military men and women of all ranks from the base's 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st Missile Wing gathered in a hangar. He said on being good citizens and airmen that the best of airmen at Minot Air Force Base and in the world were represented at the meeting.
Military members and others applaud just before Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, enters a hangar at Minot Air Force Base for a town hall meeting there Monday afternoon.
Dempsey said he wasn't visiting the base to talk about any failures, and that any such things can be fixed.
Earlier this month, Air Force Global Strike Command officials reported a missile officer recertification program was making great strides and 10 of 19 officers who had been decertified now were able to fully perform their alert duties. The rest were continuing to progress through the program, Global Strike Command officials said.
The 19 officers of about 170 Minot AFB missile officers were decertified and lost their authority to control and launch nuclear missiles until they went through the recertification program. Also, the commander of the 91st Operations Support Squadron was relieved of his duties last week and Lt. Col.Trevor Hazen replaced him on Friday. Hazen came to Minot AFB from the Army War College, according to base officials.
Dempsey said his trip to Minot AFB is to learn about the base's nuclear deterrent mission and its conventional capabilities.
"I'll tell you I'll leave here much better than when I arrived here," he told the group.
Dempsey was accompanied on the trip by his wife, Deanie.
A student of history, Dempsey said he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1970.
That was the year the first intercontinental ballistic missile Minuteman III was placed in a silo in the Minot missile field and a Minot AFB missile squadron became the first Minuteman III squadron to have operational status.
Dempsey told the crowd that there are challenges in the nation, and in this world as it is now, he said it is very important to be ready "for anything and everything."
A number of military members asked questions that Dempsey responded to during the town hall meeting. Many of their questions related to the federal budget cuts that Dempsey said is continually being worked on.
Asked about Syria, he said Syria is a most complex issue because it involves many issues, and it's something that cannot be fixed overnight. "All of us are interested in stability in that region," he said.
"Our nation will never fail to do what is right...," he added.
When it comes to the military, Dempsey said he knows a lot about what makes the military work. He's been a career officer for 39 years.
As far as remote assignments, he said he's been on isolated duty during his military career and knows what it is like. After graduating from West Point in the early 1970s, he said he spent three years patrolling the western border of Czechoslovakia in an old Jeep with no top. He'd be on duty for 45 days and then 30 days in, and sometimes there was 80 inches of snow on the ground, he said. "It was a pretty remote, austere environment."
But he said he felt he was given a little more by having that assignment than his West Point classmates who went to Hawaii and other places. He said he can't do much about changing the remoteness of North Dakota but there is something about remoteness that is beneficial to an individual.
As for furloughs, he said it is a near-term problem of surviving the issue and a long-term problem of which programs are absolutely critical. But, he said, "No 1 is to defend the nation."
"It's not just the military in this but the nation," he told the group.
Asked whether budget cuts will impact enlisted and officers pay, Dempsey said, "My first concern is we can't pay you enough for what all of you do."
On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will authorize funds for a 1.8 percent pay raise in 2014 for military members.
During the town hall meeting, Dempsey asked for a show of hands of those who considered themselves leaders. Many raised their hands.
Dempsey said he's almost done with being the steward "of this incredible profession" and advised that leaders be connected to their units and again noted that if there are any problems, that problems can be fixed.
He said when a person comes into the military and wants to be a leader that what they are also coming into the military to do is to make a difference.