FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III visited U.S. Army South Headquarters, conducted a town hall meeting with more than 300 enlisted soldiers at Blesse Auditorium, and spoke about possible upcoming policy changes here, Jan. 6.
Chandler, hosted by Maj. Gen. Simeon G. Trombitas, Army South commander, received a mission brief from Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Cervantes, Army South command sergeant major, before holding the town hall with the Soldiers.
Army South, the Army service component command of U.S. Southern Command, conducts theater security cooperation in order to enhance hemispheric security and stability.
"I was pleased to have the opportunity to inform the sergeant major of the Army of the great things we are doing here at Army South within our area of responsibility, and how we are relevant to the future of the U.S. Army," said Cervantes.
Army South conducts training exercises and subject matter expert engagements with partner nations in Central and South America and the Caribbean. The command has the capability to conduct contingency operations and a variety of missions, which include defeating conventional threats, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; and supporting civil authorities in countering illicit trafficking and transnational organized crime.
Chandler later addressed the soldiers of Army South about professionalism in a forum focused on discussing possible upcoming policy changes. The Army may be faced with possible changes in size and composition after more than a decade of fighting two simultaneous wars. Chandler spoke about the importance of character, competence and commitment to remaining in the Army asking, “Are you that person demonstrating excellence?”
Chandler addressed several issues Soldiers will be faced with in a realigning Army, to include changes in retention, recruiting, uniforms, the non-commissioned officer education system, and changes to the Army physical readiness test.
According to Chandler, recruiting and retention for both enlisted and officers will see changes. A small percentage of recruits come in with waivers for various reasons. The plan is to reduce the number of waivers coming into the Army, particularly for those exceeding body mass index standards for basic training. Currently, soldiers are able to attend basic training with a waiver if they are within six percent of the BMI. The plan is to lessen that percentage.
Both enlisted and officers have seen changes in retention control points. RCP’s require individuals to be promoted within a certain time frame during the career or they must separate from service.
There are a few options being considered for the new Army combat uniform pattern, none of which include the current ACU pattern. Three uniform patterns being considered are the woodland, desert and the transitional pattern. In addition, an alternate cut uniform, that was originally made with the female soldier in mind, but is a unisex uniform for both males and females, is being considered for a more professional look. Other changes are still being considered to the ACU itself, such as replacing some of the velcro with zippers, and possibly removing the elastic drawstring from the current cargo pockets. Discussions to weigh the options with senior leaders are slated for this year.
The Army physical fitness uniform is also up for review. According to Chandler, the lack of reflective material on the APFU requires soldiers to also wear a reflective belt with the uniform. Soldiers have added names, rank, and other unit insignias on the reflective belts, making the force less uniform. Possible changes to the APFU include adding antimicrobial properties, better reflection, and better sizing. Also, look for the new APRT policy this fiscal year.
When asked if early retirement options would be considered as part of the realignment of the force, Chandler replied “We don’t want to do that yet,” adding that would only be used as a last resort. As of now, no changes have been made to the Army’s current retirement benefits.
Chandler wrapped up his visit to Army South with lunch at the Sam Houston Club with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno and installation leaders. After the luncheon, Chandler was asked, and took a few moments to host an Army South Soldier’s promotion ceremony. Sgt. Shinita Ward, cable systems installer/maintainer was promoted into the non-commissioned officer corps to the rank of sergeant.
Upon the conclusion of his visit to Army South, the sergeant major of the Army wrapped up his trip to Fort Sam Houston with visits to Brooke Army Medical Center and the Center for the Intrepid, a rehabilitation facility for OIF/OEF casualties who have sustained amputation, burns or functional limb loss.