BAGHDAD - Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III answered deployed troops’ questions during a town hall meeting at Forward Operating Base, Union III June 24.
The fourteenth sergeant major of the Army gave soldiers a forum to speak about the issues that are important to them.
“I’m here to listen,” Chandler said at the beginning of the meeting. “If you ask me a question I am going to get you an answer.”
Chandler discussed how the Army plans to reduce its strength by 50,000 people over the next four years.
“If you are doing the right things, I think you are going to be in good shape,” Chandler said. “If you are not doing what you should be doing as a soldier, which is striving to excel, you are probably going to be at risk for not being offered the privilege to reenlist.”
Factors like height and weight standards, physical fitness testing, civilian and military education and a soldier’s overall conduct will be used to determine who stays and who goes, Chandler said.
The reduction will start next year and will happen four ways: by reducing the number of people that are brought into the service, retaining less people, adjusting the mandatory date that people can no longer serve as a sergeant or staff sergeant, and by selective early retirement boards, he said.
Chandler expressed the importance of the non-commissioned officer corps during the question and answer session.
“If you are a NCO here, I am holding you accountable for your soldiers’ performance issues,” Chandler said. “You have a duty to make sure that your soldiers know what you expect of them.”
He said that an non-commissioned officer’s job is to accomplish the mission and take care of soldiers.
“It is our duty to help those folks, help them see what right looks like,” Chandler said. “Your soldiers are thirsty for your leadership, so give them a drink.”
Chandler, a 30-year veteran, challenged the Non-Commissioned Officers Corps to take charge, obey orders and to execute.
A growing concern amongst all soldiers is the length of future deployments.
Starting in October, an active duty soldier can expect to be deployed for one year and home for two years, said Chandler. For Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers the new standard will be a one year deployment with four years at home.
“The Army has a plan that will move [active duty] to a nine-month deployment and a 27-month dwell,” Chandler said.
For the Reserve component the proposed plan will have the average soldier deployed for one year and home for five years. Soldiers may have to give up rest and recuperation leave to get to a nine-month deployment, he said.
Chandler stressed the importance of getting feedback from soldiers about the things that concern them the most.
“We transform the Army continuously - soldiers, you are a big part of that decision,” he said. “You have a voice; there are many forums for you to exercise your voice.”
During the town hall a voice raised a concern about the quality of soldier that is graduating from today’s basic combat training.
“Our recruits are not physically active, they have got huge challenges with medical issues, they have got huge challenges with morals, with understanding values,” Chandler said. “This is not an Army problem, it is a societal problem.”
The initial problems that some new soldiers have are preventable, and that is what the Army is trying to combat and overcome with its new standards and policy changes.
“I think our drill sergeants, recruiters and advanced individual training platoon sergeants do a pretty darn good job with the time we give them, and the tools we give them to do the job,” he said.
New soldiers have the reality of war and the certainty of deployments in front of them when they make the decision to enlist.
“If you entered the Army after 9/11 than you are one of my personal heroes,” Chandler said. “I admire that, and I am humbled to be in your presence.”
Before the end of the meeting Chandler reminded the troops that he is there for all of them.
“I am your sergeant major,” he said. “At the end of the day you need to understand that the senior leaders in our Army believe in you.”