SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III met with Air Defense Artillery Soldiers throughout Southwest Asia during a tour of the region, Saturday through today.
The SMA expressed gratitude for the dedicated service of the Air Defense Artillery, known as ADA, branch and met with troops to address recent regulatory and policy changes. He also took the opportunity to discuss Army-wide topics such as the drawdown of the force, budget constraints and sexual assault prevention.
"I came over here to visit the Soldiers from the [ADA] units to tell them thanks for what they are doing. Their MOS (military occupational specialty) has one of the shortest dwell times in the Army right now," said Chandler, noting the multiple deployments of ADA Soldiers over the past 15 years. "We're working to find a solution, and we appreciate their service and sacrifice. Not only theirs, but also their families."
The current deployment cycle of an ADA Soldier is one year deployed, one year at their home station, followed by another year-long deployment. With the end of the war in Iraq, and the transition in Afghanistan, most other Soldiers are on a more balanced cycle of one year deployed, two years at their home station. With a high demand for ADA capabilities, the Army will soon move to increase the number of Soldiers within the branch to help alleviate the deployment ratio and to allow Soldiers to pursue non-MOS specific opportunities, such as recruiter or drill sergeant, said Chandler.
Chandler also discussed the possibility of exploiting equipment and training capabilities to offer the Advanced Leadership Course and Senior Leadership Course to deployed Soldiers in the ADA branch serving overseas.
While meeting with the Soldiers, Chandler reminded them that their mission is a top priority for senior leadership within the Army and their strategic presence helps to secure and stabilize the region. Despite austere locations and taxing work/rest cycles, Chandler said he was pleased by the morale and effort of the Soldiers.
"I sensed a great deal of motivation about what they are doing, and why they were doing it. I'm grateful for what our Soldiers do. Our Army is in great hands because we have Soldiers like these who are willing to go and do what we ask them to do," he said.
For Command Sgt. Maj. Gerardo Dominguez, the senior enlisted adviser for all Air Defense Forces in CENTCOM, it was important to show the SMA that the ADA mission was both a joint and combined effort, executed in conjunction with units from other U.S. military and foreign military branches.
"Theater security cooperation is one of the top things that we do here and an integral part of our Mission Essential Task List. We have combined and joint relationships with organizations from every country in the [area of responsibility]," said Dominguez. "The most important thing is the relationship building peace. If they trust us and we can be in these countries, it's very, very powerful."
Additionally, Dominquez wanted to illustrate to Chandler that his Soldiers are flexible and ready to do the nation's work.
"The Soldiers come here prepared, well-trained and able to execute the mission. I have no doubt that if we were to transition to war, these countries and locations would be safely guarded," he said.
On a personal note, Chandler advised the Soldiers to take advantage of their deployed status to focus on self-improvement, such as physical or spiritual fitness, and achieving personal ambitions, like earning a degree. He encouraged them to be proactive in managing their careers and goals to ensure success in a more competitive Army and civilian job market.
"I'm a firm believer in taking charge of your life. For example, if you choose to leave the Army, you should take advantage of all the benefits we have while you are on still serving, like tuition assistance for civilian education -- so you put yourself in the best possible situation," he said. "Those who don't have a plan are kind of treading water, and that goes against everything we say a Soldier should do. You should be continuously improving yourself, not only from a military perspective but from a personal one."
At the conclusion of each unit visit, Chandler promised to bring back Soldier concerns and feedback to Army leadership at the Pentagon.