EDINBURGH, Ind. (June 19, 2014) -- Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck played host to more than 60 senior enlisted representatives from nearly every state and territory in the country and the District of Columbia June 16-19 as they attended the 2014 Army National Guard Senior Enlisted Professional Development Workshop.
The focus of the conference was to build a better National Guard in the face of challenges to the nation and its military forces. Conference attendees shared the best practices in their organizations, viewed various new technologies, and listened to a variety of guest speakers.
Tuesday, they had the opportunity to meet Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler. Chandler has years of experience working with the National Guard, both in his current assignment with a responsibility to advocate for Soldiers across all three components, and an assignment in the Mississippi Army National Guard early in his career.
"He has never been here to Camp Atterbury before," said Indiana National Guard State Command Sgt. Maj. James Gordon. "It was really great to have the sergeant major of the Army here to give us his thoughts and insights as the senior enlisted leader of the Department of the Army."
Chandler was grateful and candid when speaking about the Soldiers of the National Guard.
"As a member of the Army National Guard, what you do for your state, your hometowns and for the nation is phenomenal, and I want to tell you, as the sergeant major of the Army, thanks for what you do," he said.
Chandler took the time to field questions from all the senior enlisted representatives, speaking at length about topics ranging from future military budget considerations and leadership, to current policies.
"He gave a knockout talk today," said Command Sgt. Major of the Army National Guard Brunk Conley. "You see a lot of leaders here at different stages in their career. Some of the sergeants major are new, and some are very seasoned, but each of them represents all of the Soldiers within their respective states. So what we do here is share as much information as possible, pass along experiences, and arm each other with training and tools to become better leaders when we get back to our home states, so it trickles down to affect the young corporal or sergeant on the ground level."
Education was one of the key topics covered by Chandler when fielding questions from conference attendees. Non-commissioned officer leaders from many states shared their thoughts on how best to improve the non-commissioned officer corps through curriculum changes that are more conducive to reserve-component Soldiers. They also discussed the possibility of enhanced civilian educational benefits, including increasing the number of colleges in GoArmyEd, the online program for Soldiers requesting tuition assistance.
Chandler responded by offering information about Department of Army-level organizations that could provide needed information and described the goals of the Army's NCO 2020 for increasing NCO capabilities and responsibilities. He also spoke about the importance of college education for Soldiers.
"Education is valuable to the Army because it pulls Soldiers out of their comfort zone and makes them consider non-military options in the problem solving process," said Chandler. "It's hugely important as we move forward into the future that we have agile and adaptive critical thinkers in our Army -- and civilian education helps us realize that goal."
As conference attendees part ways and head home to their respective states and territories, they take the insights and knowledge passed on to them at the conference and prepare to find ways to use what they have learned to make the Army National Guard even stronger tomorrow than it was yesterday. It starts with the strengthening and training of the individual Soldier. This is the duty of non-commissioned officers everywhere.