FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III sat down with Team Bragg’s enlisted soldiers this week for a candid discussion about the challenges, changes and priorities for tomorrow’s Army.
Chandler began each gathering with the same requirement of the soldiers.
“Everyone is going to ask a question,” he would start. “It may be about Fort Bragg, it may be that you want to stay in the Army and want to know your chances.”
As wide-ranging as the individual soldier’s questions were, the answers from the Sergeant Major of the Army always followed a central theme.
“There is no easy button here,” said Chandler, while stressing the basic requirements for the progression in the Army.
He outlined for junior enlisted with big dreams the need to master the basic skills of their chosen job first.
For noncommissioned officers and newer leaders who grew up in an Army at war, he stressed the need to get involved with every aspect of their troops lives, not just the next deployment.
“When I first joined,” Chandler recalled, “we were eight soldiers to a room with NCOs in a four-man room. We had zero privacy, but if anyone was in a tough spot, we all knew and could help them out.”
Chandler stressed the need to approach every aspect of the Army as a team engagement rather than a job where individuals disappear into the barracks or home after the retreat.
“We have great facilities now,” Chandler said, speaking of the modern barracks program, “but they tend to isolate people.”
Chandler was not stressing a return to open bay barracks, but instead a return to basic self-policing that has defined the organization over the past 30 years.
Chandler said, “So many of the challenges in our Army today are answered by; are we willing to take this on?”
Sexual assault, suicide, and under performing Soldiers are challenges that can be solved by engaged and dynamic leaders who get directly involved.
“It starts with leaders enforcing the standards,” Chandler explained. “Getting in the barracks, both announced and unannounced and checking on soldiers.”
“Our profession demands that you are a soldier on and off duty, 24/7,” he continued. “It’s hard and I understand that, but it is what makes us so different as an organization.”
As Chandler answered different questions, he defined success in in terms junior and senior soldiers alike could relate to.
“He gave the why with his answer,” said Pfc. Stepharonn Miller from Headquarters Company, 44th Medical Brigade. “He gave the why behind the reasons, not just the decisions. It was all really good information I can now take back to my unit.”
“I really appreciate him coming out to do this,” said Staff Sgt. Ivan Diaz, an infantryman with Headquarters Company, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. “It is great for say, a PFC, to meet him and talk to him in a relaxed environment like this.”
“He was really engaging,” said Miller. “Very straight forward in how he spoke.”
“I am more confident in the troops we have now than the troops we had in 2001,” said Chandler of the current Army generation, “We have all learned some hard lessons over the last decade.”
Chandler did not shy away from the challenges facing the force of the future; he was blunt about placing the hope for future and the burden of success on the next generation of soldiers and leaders.
“I need your help with it,” Chandler said, speaking of the state of the Army in 2020, “help holding one another accountable.”
A planned post wide town hall was cancelled due to winter weather that hit the area.
“We are going to get back down here soon for that town hall,” said Chandler “You can plan on that.”