By Spc. Lerone Simmons, JTF-GTMO Public AffairsFebruary 6, 2014
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Feb. 5, 2014) -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III toured Joint Task Force Guantanamo and visited with the Soldiers assigned to U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wednesday.
"My main drive in coming to Guantanamo was to look at the quality of life of troopers stationed here," he said. "We have to make sure that we are providing the funds necessary for our Soldiers to have a good quality of life while on this tour."
Chandler met with troopers at the Windjammer Club for a town hall meeting, where he discussed the importance of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, or JTF GTMO, mission, challenges that face today's Army and solutions on the way forward for young Soldiers.
Sgt. Maj. Michael L. Baker, 525th Military Police Battalion command sergeant major, realized the importance and rarity of a visit from Chandler, and the effects it would have on his Soldiers.
"I grew up in an Army when you barely saw your platoon sergeant, first sergeant or command sergeant major; so when they actually took the time to stop by and speak with us, it meant a lot," he said.
"Having the sergeant major of the Army visit and observe our warriors in action is a tremendous honor," Baker said.
Baker said it was important for the troopers to see senior leadership at the Washington level recognize the sacrifices JTF GTMO troopers make. Baker said he was honored Chandler took the time to speak individually with the troopers of the joint task force, a sentiment echoed by many who attended Chandler's town hall.
"To see the sergeant major of the Army take time out of his schedule to come to GTMO and check on us is awesome," said Spc. Nathaniel J. Soriano, military police, 491st Military Police Company. "His standard is professionalism, which is relatable to how we carry out our mission here."
For nearly an hour, Chandler addressed initiatives on sexual assault and harassment prevention, progression through the ranks, and potential changes to Army policies. Troopers were able to ask questions and hear the sergeant major's advice and insight on the topics.
The day will be one that James Bagby said he won't soon forget. After more than six years wearing the Army uniform, Bagby was promoted to staff sergeant following the town hall meeting. Chandler pinned Bagby with his new rank.
"It was an honor, since this does not happen too often in a Soldiers' career," said Bagby, a military police officer with the 591st Military Police Company. "I'll remember this for the rest of my life."
Senior leadership said the visit will hopefully leave a lasting impact on the footprint of JTF GTMO. Following the town hall, Chandler toured the living areas, detention facilities and offices of the JTF.
Master Sgt. William Porter, the senior enlisted adviser with JTF Engineering, was the guide for Chandler's tour. Porter said it was an opportunity to highlight the significant improvements the JTF has made toward quality of life for assigned personnel, and to bring awareness to the JTF's needs.
"With his visit, the sergeant major can report back about the conditions here firsthand, and hopefully help streamline requested projects by the JTF to help improve troopers' quality of life even more," Porter said.
Though the visit was short, senior leaders and junior troopers agreed it was historic and important for the overall morale of the JTF. Chandler, however, saw the visit as an opportunity to pay homage to the troopers carrying out a very high-visibility mission.
"The mission here is absolutely critical," Chandler said. "Troopers are down here demonstrating what's best for our country and are doing a thankless job. I'm proud of them."