News: SMA answers troops concerns at Yongsan
Story by Staff Sgt. Cody Harding
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea – Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III visited Yongsan with his wife, Jeanne, to be briefed on the situation in the Republic of Korea and to show support for the troops at a town hall meeting inside Collier Community Fitness Center Nov. 7.
Chandler, who assumed the duty of sergeant major of the Army in March, started the day with early morning physical training, followed up by a briefing on the current status of forces in Korea. In the briefing with the SMA was Gen. James Thurman, the commanding general of the United Nations Command, the Republic of Korea – United States Combined Forces Command, and the United States Forces Korea.
In the afternoon Chandler arrived at the town hall to a crowd of hundreds of soldiers, from every rank, stationed on Yongsan. He began his talk by telling the soldiers that he was there for their opinions and to bring them back with him to the Pentagon. He said that if there was a question he couldn’t answer then they could get a card from his aide and send the question via email.
“My commitment to you is I will get you an answer to that question,” Chandler said. “We will use the Army staff to get you that answer, and occasionally you may not get the answer that you want to hear. But my commitment to you is that it will be an honest answer.”
He then went on to talk about the future of the Army, including the drawdown of forces, the change in retirement and the discipline and appearance of the soldiers. On retirement benefits, he made clear that they would not change for those serving, but that changes must be made for those who have not yet joined in light of the economic worries facing the nation.
“If you don’t know much about any of this stuff, like what plan you’re in right now, you had better start paying attention because this will affect your bottom line,” Chandler said. “You should know. Most of this information is public access. You can go right on the DFAS web site and they’ll talk about all the different programs. You should pay attention.”
He addressed the current standards and discipline of the forces, noting that it ties in heavily to the retention of those in the Army. In simple terms, those who commit crimes, act in an unprofessional manner or show no drive to get ahead are not going to last long in the Army.
“Sergeants, this is my charge,” he said. “If you take nothing else away from what I have to tell you today, take this," said Chandler. “I expect you to counsel your subordinates and help your commanders make informed decisions about who should stay in our Army. I can come up with any policy or program in the world, but if you are not willing to look someone in the eye and say ‘Chandler, you are in left field with a hockey stick saying throw me the ball,’ you’re not doing your job.”
Promotions were also was highlighted by Chandler as he noted the changes to the system that took place recently and for the future. Chandler stressed that personal improvement was now more important than ever for those looking to get ahead in the Army.
“I need you to understand that promotion is not something that’s given,” Chandler explained. “It’s something you earn. You have to take a vested interest in getting promoted and not wait for someone to give it to you. Because, just like everything else I’ve talked about, reducing the size of the Army means there are inherently going to be less promotions.”
After his speech, the soldiers of Yongsan were given a chance to get their questions answered by the SMA. Soldiers asked about several topics,ranging from wear of the uniform to fraud, waste and abuse of funds. When one soldier asked about family life, Chandler drew his response from his personal experience.
“Take time with your family,” Chandler said. “I personally made some poor decisions through my life, which I thought were actually in the best interest of my family, but they weren’t. So I missed a lot of things.”
When the questions were finished and Chandler called the soldiers to the front to receive their coins, he took the time to ask each soldier who came forward why they deserved a coin. For each answer, from being the best chaplain assistant in their shop to working in positions above their pay grade, Chandler thanked each one personally for their service.