FORT BLISS, Texas (June 10, 2014) -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler and his wife Jeanne visited the Soldiers, families, and training and quality of life activities here, Wednesday and Thursday.
"Part of my job on these visits is to provide information about Army issues and programs to Soldiers and families," Chandler said. "But I also want to know what they have to tell us."
During town halls with more than a thousand total in the audiences, discussions with Soldiers and their leaders at training sites, and meals with small groups of non-commissioned officers and junior enlisted Soldiers, he heard concerns and hopes for the Army's future. In each of the venues, he recognized both of their sentiments, stating the Army is facing challenges, but the future remains bright in the long run, and Fort Bliss will remain an important part of that future.
"I think Fort Bliss is unique. It's obviously got a huge training area that does not have as many limitations as other posts, camps and stations around the Army, so I think you'll see units at Fort Bliss really being able to maximize their full potential and their mission in what they do," he said. "That training is not only going to increase military expertise, but also support leader development."
As a former commandant of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, known as USASMA, Chandler knows something about leader development, and during his visit he stated that the training at Training and Doctrine Command institutions like USASMA is a second, equally important kind of training.
During his visit, he made time for both.
On the first day of his visit, Chandler visited the Fort Bliss Simulation Center to get an overview of the Advanced Gunnery Training Systems from the 2014 1st AD Sullivan Cup M1A2 Gunnery champions.
Afterward, he observed 1st Brigade Combat Team Soldiers conducting Anti-Tank Guided Missile field-training on the Stryker Combat Vehicle, and finished the day Chandler with the 4th Brigade Combat Team's Soldiers, while they fielded the newly issued Armored Bulldozer.
Staying true to his armor crewmen background, Chandler visited a M2A4 Bradley Fighting Vehicle dry-fire gunnery preparation range, on his second day here.
In his visits to each of the training sites, Chandler took time to ask junior enlisted Soldiers how they were progressing, and asked their leaders about the strengths and weaknesses they see in their ranks.
On day two and three of his visit, he made time to visit USASMA and its NCO Academy. At each of these venues, his message of military expertise and competence transitioned to one of commitment and character.
Speaking to a group of Warrior Leader Course students, he explained his philosophy of the Army Profession using the Warrior Ethos to support his message.
"You can't be a professional as a non-commissioned officer -- you cannot say you are a professional, 'that no one is more professional than I,' if you are not willing to be a person of character and commitment.
Everyone in here is a competent person, I wholeheartedly believe that," he continued. "But I'm not sure as an Army that we understand competence is not the most important thing. It is important, but it is only as important as character and commitment."
By maintaining a focus on all three components of the profession, Chandler said there would likely be a place for Soldiers, even as the Army continues its drawdown.
"If you continue to do your best and continue to better yourself -- to be an agile and adaptive Soldier-- your leadership will recognize that," he said. "Even if we don't need as many Soldiers in a particular [military occupational specialty], your leaders will be looking for Soldiers who are qualified and capable to go where they are needed and continue to take on challenges."
He said some of those challenges will be a transition to new missions, like Regionally Aligned Forces, and realizing the Chief of Staff of the Army's vision for our future. He added that he expects some profound changes in how the Army prepares NCOs in the near future.
"I think you will see more expectations of Soldiers and NCOs to do more self-development," he said. "Remember, the Army promotes those who lead from the front. Institutional training, the NCO Education System, shouldn't be focused on educating NCOs on what they already know and perform at their unit routinely," he said, adding that Army courses will likely become more rigorous.
At the end of nearly every engagement at Fort Bliss, Chandler said he had confidence in the abilities of today's Soldiers and their willingness to selflessly serve the nation.
"I know with your commitment -- to each other, to your unit, to the Army and its policies and programs, and lastly, to the American people we protect -- our Army will be even better and will continue to be the best in the world."