General Martin E. Dempsey
U.S. Army General
Born: March 14, 1952, Jersey City, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2019-20: Public Service
In his 41 years in uniform, General Martin E. Dempsey commanded at every level of the military. By the time he retired in 2015, he was the nation’s highest-ranking military officer.
Born in Jersey City and raised in Bayonne, Dempsey is descended from four Irish-immigrant grandparents, with roots in counties Donegal, Sligo, Mayo and Roscommon. He attended a Catholic high school in Goshen, New York, where he met his future wife, Deanie.
After high school, Dempsey entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Upon graduation in 1974, he was commissioned as an armor officer. He later became an assistant professor of English at the Military Academy.
In 1991, Dempsey was deployed with the Third Armored Division in support of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-led air offensive against Iraq. He subsequently rose to the rank of colonel, commanding the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. Promoted to brigadier general, he served on a training and advisory mission in Saudi Arabia.
In June 2003, three months after the start of the Iraq War, Dempsey assumed command of the First Armored Division, the largest division-level command in Army history. In this post, Dempsey took over the difficult combat operation against Iraqi insurgents in the vicinity of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. He later served as commanding general of a multi-national mission to train and equip Iraqi security forces.
After serving as acting commander and deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, Dempsey was named the 37th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army in April 2011. Within a few months, President Barack Obama nominated Dempsey as the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He served in that post—the highest in the U.S. military—until September 2015. He retired as a four-star general.
In addition to his West Point degree, Dempsey has three master’s degrees, including an MA degree in English from Duke University. Since his retirement from the military, Dempsey has served as chairman of USA Basketball, the non-profit governing body for basketball in the United States, and as a professor at Duke University, where he teaches courses in management, leadership and public policy. He has also written or co-written several books on leadership.