ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Aug. 23, 2013) -- During his first trip to Aberdeen Proving Ground since assuming responsibility as the Army's senior non-commissioned officer, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler said he learned a little something about what APG is all about.
Chandler toured the installation Aug. 20, and then shared his stance on current issues and concerns affecting Soldiers, civilians and families during a town hall meeting at the Post Theater.
Chandler was met by Aberdeen Proving Ground, or APG, Garrison Commander Col. Gregory McClinton, Installation Command Sgt. Maj. Kennis Dent, and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. James Ervin.
After a short meeting with installation senior non-commissioned officers, or NCOs, Chandler took an aerial tour of APG led by Installation Safety Officer Ralph Cardenuto. A capabilities demonstration of the 22nd Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort), led by Command Sgt. Maj. Montonya Boozier, followed, and then Chandler ate lunch at Top of the Bay with some of the installation's NCOs.
Accompanying Chandler was his wife, Jeanne Chandler, who visited with Army Community Service Director Janice Downey, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Director Mike Lupacchino and unit Family Readiness Group leaders before rejoining him at the town hall meeting.
Chandler is the senior enlisted advisor to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno on all enlisted matters; particularly in areas affecting Soldier training and quality of life. He sits on a variety of councils and boards that make decisions affecting enlisted Soldiers and their families, and is routinely called to testify before Congress.
TOWN HALL MEETING
Soldiers, civilians, family members and cadets from the Maryland National Guard's Freestate Challenge Academy attended the afternoon town hall, where they had an opportunity to hear the senior enlisted Soldier's priorities. Chandler used short video clips to illustrate his point on several subjects.
THE ARMY PROFESSION
He asked members of the audience to stand and define "character," "commitment" and "competence," and said the three characteristics were essential to becoming a professional Soldier. "The Army Profession" manual, a professional development tool initiated by Chandler, is available at http://cape.army.mil/aaop/doctrine.php, was launched on the Army Birthday, June 14.
One challenge to the profession, Chandler said, are the number of suicides across the Army. Reminding Soldiers that the NCO Creed states, "No one is more professional than I," Chandler said today's Soldiers are challenged to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing while ensuring their battle buddy is living by the same standard.
"In almost every [suicide] case," he said, "there was alcohol, a weapon and a failed relationship involved. If we choose to, we can reduce suicides in the Army. Look for those three things and you can save someone's life."
The issue is bigger than the Army and includes every spectrum of society, he said, adding that his words were meant for all listeners.
"It's not just uniform to uniform. Whatever the spectrum is, we are the Army family and families look out for each other," he said. "In order for [Soldiers] to be successful, we all have to be successful."
He encouraged everyone to familiarize themselves with Army Community Service and Army Substance Abuse Program services and resources.
Chandler drew a close comparison when explaining the effects of sexual assault. He asked listeners to think about how it felt to have something stolen from them and equated similar feelings to sexual assault and rape.
"Unlike when someone steals an item from you that can be replaced, they take something you cannot buy back," he said, adding that to defeat sexual assault more energy and outrage must be applied against it. "We should be fired up and angry that we tolerate criminal activity. If the NCOs get behind it, we're going to solve this challenge. When we tolerate mediocrity or violence then we are the problem."
He said the first priority is to encourage Soldiers to come forward, and when they do, believe them.
"We cannot be skeptical," he said, acknowledging that instances of false statements have occurred.
"There's an answer for someone who comes forward and makes a false statement and we'll handle that," he said, "but in 99 percent of cases, something happened. We've got to do our part. We need an understanding from our perspective that we can change things but we all have to contribute."
He added that while members of the House and Senate are concerned about sexual assault in the military and not satisfied with how military leaders are addressing the situation, he believes the solution lies within the ranks.
"We are taking action and holding leaders accountable," he said.
Regarding retention and training during an era of budgetary uncertainty, Chandler said though the Army has high standards when it comes to providing the nation with a ready force, training will suffer if the next budget is not approved. He said he believes there is a distinct possibility 2014 will bring a full sequestration, which means about a 50 percent decrease in defense spending.
"The last thing we want is to send Soldiers not trained into combat," he said.
As for retention and recruitment, "There will always be opportunities to serve our needs proudly and with competence," he said, with regard to current and future Soldiers. "We want you to be a part of our team."
Chandler presented his challenge coin to several Soldiers who were selected by their units as outstanding or contributing above and beyond.
He said he didn't know what to expect from APG, but after researching installation organizations and viewing programs in place for Soldiers, civilians, retirees, families, and Survivors, he was very impressed with what he saw.
In the grand scheme of things, "APG is extremely important," Chandler said. "Research and science is how we will move forward into the future. We have to put a lot of emphasis and investments on future innovations that will only make us more efficient."
"This is a significant and important workforce," he said. "I didn't know this place was so beautiful. It's like a little jewel you don't notice at first because you get blinded by the bigger ones."