Spc. Brittany H. Gardner
362nd MPAD, USD-S Public Affairs
BASRA, Iraq – Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III was welcomed to Contingency Operating Base Basra by Command Sgt. Maj. Wilson L. Early, 36th Infantry Division, June 25.
“The sergeant major of the Army came to Iraq because he calls himself a scout for the chief of Staff of the Army,” said Early. “He visited to find out what’s on soldiers’ minds, what soldiers care about, and what they think.”
Chandler visited COB Basra and other bases around Iraq to discuss upcoming changes to uniforms, active-duty retention, and other topics. He also gave soldiers an opportunity to ask him questions.
A large part of Chandler’s discussion included an explanation of how the active component will draw down by approximately 50,000 soldiers over the next four to five years.
There will be gradually fewer soldiers recruited into the active component each year, Chandler explained. Also, fewer soldiers will be retained and some will be selected for early retirement. These decisions will be based on job performance, said Chandler.
“We’ve got to have some mechanism to separate the wheat from the chaff,” said Chandler. “The privilege to serve is going to become more difficult.”
Another important topic discussed during Chandler’s visit was sexual assault. While speaking about this topic, he directed his attention toward non-commissioned officers.
“If you’re an NCO, I personally hold you accountable to lead your soldiers,” said Chandler. “If you see it and don’t report it, you’ve given the green light. There is absolutely no excuse for sexual assault. Intervention means you get involved. This problem is going to be solved by our non-commissioned officers taking charge.”
Chandler also spoke to soldiers about not being ashamed to seek help for behavioral health issues. He admitted to seeing a counselor for the issues he was having after his deployment.
“If you need help, get some,” said Chandler.
Early said he believes this was one of the most important parts of Chandler’s discussion. It helped soldiers understand that there really isn’t a stigma associated with seeking counseling for behavioral health issues, and it will not hinder soldiers’ careers.
Early said Chandler’s selection for sergeant major of the Army was based on his work ethic, and being treated by a counselor didn’t interfere with his selection by his supervisors and peers.
The sergeant major of the Army’s visit went extremely well, overall said Early.
“I think he left here knowing that U.S. Division-South was in good hands,” said Early. “He left here appreciating the soldiers and the hard work they’re doing.”