FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 4, 2013) -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III visited Fort Rucker April 1-2 with Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, to conduct open discussions with Soldiers about budget constraints, affects of sequestration and what it means to be an Army professional.

During his visit, he recognized Soldiers for their achievements, visited various facilities on the installation and visited with Soldiers, but mostly he talked about bringing professionalism back to the Army.

"My expectation is for you to understand what the Army profession is about and that you're training your Soldiers routinely on what it means to be a professional," he said to an audience of NCOs at the Seneff Building. "You have to own this and your responsibility is to lead your Soldiers into ownership also, because the profession touches everything we do.

"Whether it's talking about suicide, sexual assaults or even doing well on [physical training] tests -- you can tie something that we do as an Army to our professional responsibilities," he continued. "I see many Soldiers not understanding that and I'm not going to solve it -- you are."

Chandler said everything is spelled out in the first line of the NCO creed, which states, "No one is more professional than I."

"We can get up there and shout it all day long, but shouting doesn't do squat," he said. "It's what you do behind it -- it's your character, your commitment and your competence … so I ask you, are you committed to the Army and your fellow Soldier?"

Chandler went on to conduct an open discussion with the Soldiers and asked them how they thought the Army was doing against sexual assault.

Some Soldiers expressed concern that things were getting worse, while others said they thought things were getting better.

In 2011, there were 1,695 reported sexual assaults in the Army, and last year there were a little more than 1,400, according to Chandler, and things are getting better. It's the Army's policy to not tolerate sexual assault, he reminded, adding that it comes down to each Soldier's commitment.

"If you tolerate indiscipline, you're not committed. If you tolerate sexual innuendo or inappropriate touching, you're not committed," he said, adding that only 30 percent of sexual assaults get reported, but that reporting isn't the problem.

"Why aren't we getting this thing about commitment to the Army's policy -- why aren't we getting it?" he asked. "I'm not talking about reporting it, I'm talking about stepping in before the act occurs.

"We're supposed to be looking out for each other -- we're part of that check-and-balance process," he continued. "We're not successful in our [Sexual Harrassment/Assault Response and Prevention] campaign if we have one sexual assault in our Army."

Along with sexual assault, Chandler discussed hazing and suicides in the Army, and what Army leaders need to do to prevent and help.

"We've also still got a problem with hazing, and I believe that this is junior NCO business," he said. "I want you to take a look at whether or not you are developing them … and if you're not familiar with Army policy on hazing, you need to get familiar with it."

Regarding suicides, there have been about 78 suicides in the Army this year, which is about 16 more than there was at this point last year, according to the sergeant major of the Army. He said it's not going to be classes or presentations that are going to prevent suicides, but the individual NCOs that do so.

"I need your help with this," he said to the NCOs. "We had more than 300 suicides last year -- that's a small battalion. We have more kids dying from suicide than we do in combat."

It's the NCO's duty to be engaged with Soldiers and look out for anything out of the ordinary with a particular Soldier, said Chandler.

"If something is wrong, you've got to step in and your chain of command will support you," he said.

Chandler said it's hands-on interaction with Soldiers that will help prevent suicides.

"That's how we're going to turn this around," he said. "It's not a program or a policy that will prevent this -- it's you and me being committed to it."

The first step in prevention is to make sure that junior NCOs are trained to watch out for signs and to know what exactly to look for, said Chandler, and from there things can begin to get better.

"We've got to do better. It's our professional responsibility to do our duty, and that's to be a noncommissioned officer, so let's get after it," said Chandler.