FORT IRWIN, Calif. (Feb. 21, 2014) -- Trust and respect.
Those two words and themes were expanded on by the Army's top non-commissioned officer to a group of junior enlisted Soldiers at the National Training Center here, Feb. 19.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III elaborated on those topics in a mid-morning gathering of Soldiers from various units on this high desert military installation. Chandler, the 14th sergeant major of the Army, was on his first day of a two-day visit to the National Training Center. The meeting with Soldiers in ranks below sergeant allowed him to discuss values he associates with successful Soldiers.
Chandler began with an explanation of what it is to be part of the Army profession. Not every occupation is a profession, he said, but Soldiers are part of one, which necessitates they follow and abide by a code similar to what doctors and lawyers are required to do in their fields.
"The military is the same way," Chandler said. "You go to school. You're tested. You go through the process and you graduate from [advanced individual training]. From that moment forward, we have the ability, given to us by the American people, to self-police. We set our own ways for people to get promoted, and they have to share and show confidence and have to live the Army's values."
Chandler explained even further that there are three fundamental characters inherent in Soldiers to be true professionals. They are character, commitment and competence.
"In other words, if you don't exhibit these qualities, then you are not the professional that you say that you are," he said.
The three qualities listed by Chandler set the groundwork for trust and respect.
"Our profession demands equal weight on character, commitment and competence, and if you're not willing to meet those needs, those performance measures, then you are not the professional that we need in the Army," Chandler said. "And I want you take this back to your fellow Soldiers, because if you're not a professional, if you're not competent, or committed, or a person of character, how are we going to establish trust amongst one another?"
Trust is the foundation of the Army, Chandler continued. If Soldiers can't trust each other, how can they put their lives in each other's hands when required in a deployment scenario, he asked.
"Our profession dictates that trust has to be extended to one another, but if you can't be a person of character, commitment and competence you're not going to get the trust that you need," Chandler said. "And if you are one those individuals, you are actually not a professional."
Chandler imparted that Soldiers, from the most junior to the highest ranks, have a duty to self-police, and not be a bystander when corrections are necessary. The Army, and individual Soldiers, should not have to tolerate a person with little character or commitment. He explained that the problem of sexual assaults in the Army can be addressed directly through self-policing and that every Soldier, as dictated by the Warrior Ethos, has the responsibility to never leave a fallen comrade, which includes sexual assault victims.
"It's time for us to decide that we've had enough," Chandler said. "Prevent, and then if you see it happen -- if you're aware that it happened -- don't be that bystander, get engaged. Your job is to intervene, not to be a bystander."
Respect is also crucial to combating the sexual assault problem, Chandler explained. Refraining from and stopping inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature is an example of Soldiers being committed to showing respect for oneself and others.
"It's a sensitive issue and we don't talk about it enough," Chandler said. "Is it OK to be talking about who you hooked up with over the weekend in your business life? It's not. But we tolerate it. And if we can't respect one another, we're not committed to this thing we call a profession. Each and every one of us have a responsibility to say 'that's not OK.'"
The Army has been handed a huge responsibility when the country's sons and daughters have been placed under its care, Chandler said. Protecting the Army family, the team, is the job of every Soldier.
"We have to know that we can trust one another and that we're going to self-police," Chandler said. "Because our credibility as an Army, our ability to fight and win our nation's wars will be challenged or compromised by our inability to not look out for one another."