By Brittany Carlson, Belvoir EagleFebruary 5, 2014
As the Army continues to reduce its force to address fiscal constraints, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III told Fort Belvoir Soldiers and civilians exactly who will stay on the Army team: those committed to eradicating problems like sexual assault and those who demonstrate good character.
"We may be smaller, we may be leaner, but we're still going to look for and retain the best qualified, which is part of our commitment to the excellence of the Army," Chandler said during a visit to Fort Belvoir Monday.
During his visit, Chandler told senior noncommissioned officers at the Force Management Course that they had the responsibility to weed out Soldiers who perpetuate sexual harassment, as well as those with "mediocre" performance.
"Your profession demands character, commitment and competence," he said. "You've got to have the character to determine what 'right' is in our Army, both on, and off duty."
Despite some progress, sexual assault is still a problem, he added, especially since some of the most high-profile cases of sexual misconduct have involved Soldiers in the E-9 population.
"From my perspective, it starts with us holding ourselves accountable," he said. "Our nation is demanding change from us. We've got to do better."
He also asked NCOs to stop promoting Soldiers who "just show up to work" and don't demonstrate leadership potential.
Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Guillory, incoming U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir command sergeant major, and a student in the Force Management Course, said he learned a lot from Chandler's remarks.
"Fort Belvoir Soldiers need to know that the Army is getting tighter. It's going to become a point of who is better at doing the job, not just showing up, as the sergeant major said," he added.
Later, during a community town hall meeting, Chandler challenged the rest of the community to prevent sexual harassment and assault, as well as suicide, by looking out for each other.
"If we can't protect our own, how can we protect the American people?" Chandler asked the more than 250 Soldiers, civilians and family members attending his town hall meeting. "All we need you to do is make sure you are looking out for your battle buddy, and if they're looking out for you, then we have solved the problem."
After sharing his message, he also made time to answer questions about the Army's future, including what downsizing the force will look like.
As the Army cuts its force, the first Soldiers to leave will be those flagged for misconduct, followed by those who aren't demonstrating leadership potential, he said.
Chandler also said that some Soldiers may need to consider changing their military occupational specialty to stay, since some specialties will be over-strength as we continue to downsize.
"If you want to stay in the Army, there's a path for you to do that, but it first comes to you being the best that you can be within what we say is important as a United States Army Soldier," the SMA said. "You've got to be morally fit and physically fit and emotionally fit. You've got to extend yourself beyond your peers to demonstrate that you truly are among the best, which is what we want to retain in the Army."
Soldiers also asked how budget cuts will affect their pay and benefits. Chandler said Soldiers saw only a one percent pay increase this year unlike the past 12 years or so when pay increases were above normal. He added the Army's personnel costs are currently eating into its ability to modernize and train, so it will require some tough decisions to ensure our Army is ready to protect the nation while taking care of our force. The SMA said he didn't know what changes would come from Congress, but he is hopeful they will be well-balanced.
Chandler finished his town hall by reminding the audience of the incredible Fort Belvoir resources and staff he and his wife, Jeanne, saw during their visit, including the USO Warrior and Family Center and the "Intrepid Spirit" building, which cares for servicemembers suffering from traumatic brain injury and related injuries. He encouraged Soldiers to make use of these resources and get behavioral help if they need it. Chandler told his own story of being treated for TBI and visiting a behavioral health specialist.
"If I can be chosen to be the sergeant major of the Army and have had those experiences, you can get the help you need and not get in trouble," he said. "We need every single one of you on the team to be as healthy and resilient as you can since we are becoming a smaller force."
"I think my visit was great," Chandler said at the end of the day. "I had an opportunity to see some things that I didn't see the last time I was here. I think one of the most important takeaways for me is just how diverse Fort Belvoir is and the very many different activities, agencies and commands that are here. I'm impressed."