News: Sergeant major of the Army visits troops in Afghanistan – shares goals, answers questions
KABUL, Afghanistan – The 14th Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ray Chandler, the senior enlisted leader in the U.S. Army - responsible for the state of the enlisted corps and reporting its condition to the Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno - visited troops throughout Afghanistan April 2-5.
Together with Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel, International Security Assistance Force, and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan’s senior enlisted leader, Chandler toured major areas of operations and multiple outlying forward operating bases. They visited with more than 2,000 soldiers, dialoguing about issues and reiterating expectations of leadership in the enlisted ranks.
Speaking to more than 500 soldiers assembled at a town hall meeting at Bagram Air Field on the first leg of their journey, Chandler focused on issues affecting the Army as a profession. The proliferation of hazing incidents and sexual assaults were primary targets.
He gave the example of a young private who had been repeatedly hazed and ultimately took his own life.
“If you’re not treating people with dignity and respect, then I need you to question what you’re doing,” said Chandler to the gathered troops. “You have a duty. We have a duty as professionals to prevent this from happening.
“Over the last two years we’ve reduced the amount of sexual assaults by four. That’s not very good. As a matter of fact, that’s horrible,” said Chandler, putting into context the failure of individuals to recognize this problem and take corrective action to combat it.
“This is sergeants’ business. Your commitment to your profession is to take the responsibility and eliminate these from our ranks,” Chandler said.
Chandler spoke about the planned drawdown of force size in the Army and how it will affect everything from retention to retirement. He explained the technical decisions behind growing the Army smaller and laid out steps that troops should take to secure their futures, highlighting the Army’s Structured Self-Development Program.
He encouraged troops to take ownership of their careers and to be proactive in programs such as Structured Self-Development to avoid becoming complacent and stagnant.
“We’re interested in retaining the best qualified people,” said Chandler.
Chandler also touched on anticipated changes to the Army’s combat uniform and Army Regulation 670-1 governing wear and appearance, a topic drawing a large response from troops across Afghanistan.
Echoing his sentiments in Bagram at town hall meetings, small group breakfasts with junior enlisted and focused discussions with senior leaders at forward operating bases Fenty in Jalalabad and Spin Boldak outside of Kandahar, Chandler fielded hundreds of questions from troops.
Questions ranged from non-commissioned officer professional development to changes in the Army’s physical fitness test and changes to health care benefits to concerns over compensation.
Spc. Matrix Morton, an AH-64 Apache helicopter mechanic from Salt Lake City stationed in Jalalabad, raised the question on the minds of many soldiers regarding changes to the Army’s policy on tattoos.
“What’s going to happen to those of us who have tattoos when the policy changes?” asked Morton.
Chandler was quick to point out he doesn’t have a problem with tattoos, noting that three of his six children have them.
“However, I do have a problem with them if they start to distract from your military bearing,” said Chandler.
“It’s about defining ourselves as professionals,” he said.
Summing up Chandler’s take on tattoos Capel added, “Those tattoos that disgrace the uniform will not be tolerated.”
Chandler implored soldiers and leaders alike to acknowledge their accomplishments and be proud of their professions.
“The Army is based on trust - soldiers trusting leaders, and leaders trusting soldiers. And most importantly, the American people trusting us to protect them,” said Chandler.
Chandler took time at each location to recognize soldiers selected by their leaders to receive the sergeant major of the Army’s leadership coin. He thanked them for their outstanding efforts, dedication to duty and their service to the country.
Date Posted:04.05.2012 07:37
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