WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Jan. 6, 2015) -- Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III participated in a virtual town hall Tuesday, answering questions from Soldiers on a variety of topics.

The town hall at Google's Washington headquarters started off with a question about U.S. military involvement in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

About 3,000 U.S. forces are training and advising Kurdish and Iraqi forces. The Iraqi and Kurdish forces will "take the fight to ISIS," Odierno said.

"We're starting to see some progress, but it's going to take a long time. I think this is a two-or three-year process at least that's going to take us to have some success," he said.

"Ultimately, it's their nation and they need to be the ones who fight for it," Odierno said.

He added there are "no plans to put U.S. forces on the ground other than to do training and advising."

Additionally, the United States is working on a training program expected to begin this year for the Free Syrian Army. The military is "still determining" how many U.S. forces will be used to train the Syrians, Odierno said.

"We'll have to continue to assess that and play it by ear," he said. "I'm not going to ever take off the table that we might not have to put some of our own Soldiers on the ground fighting, but right now, that in fact is not the plan."

Chandler stressed the importance of Soldiers maintaining their readiness for any mission the Army may need. Soldiers must be prepared to operate in a "vague and ambiguous environment," he said.

"I would ask that you ensure, based off the resources that you have available, that your Soldiers are as trained as they possibly can to execute the missions that we're going to ask you to do," he said.

"We'll be successful in whatever it is that we ask you to do" if Soldiers maintain readiness and focus on decisive action," Chandler said.

SOLDIERS INTERACT WITH LEADERS

The Soldiers who participated in the town hall were from various Army locations throughout the United States and abroad. They asked about promotions, uniforms, and other policy items.

Addressing the topic of sexual assault, Odierno said a culture needs to exist where such abuses are unacceptable.

"It's about not only sexual harassment, but it's about our profession, that as Soldiers we should be taking care of each other and watching out for each other," Odierno said.

"We should not have another Soldier attack another Soldier. That simply to me is unacceptable, incomprehensible actually," he said.

Chandler underscored the importance of Soldiers watching out for each another -- "We are our brother's keeper," he said, adding that upholding Army professionalism includes preventing sexual abuse.

"Our duty is to one another, that's who we fight for," he said.

"I believe this challenge can be greatly resolved or reduced if Soldiers recognize their true professional responsibility, their duty to their fellow Soldier," he said.

BUDGET CHALLENGES

The Army is facing the challenge of reducing the size of the force, while balancing readiness and modernization, Odierno said.

"We'll continue to downsize until '18, and until we get to 450,000 in the active component, 335,000 in the National Guard and 195,000 in U.S. Army Reserve," he said.

The Army will continue to have the best officers and non-commissioned officers, Odierno said.

"We want to promote the right people so we maintain a strong Army," he said.

The Army's non-commissioned officer corps, Odierno said, sets the force apart from every other army in the world.

"We want to maintain high standards in our non-commissioned officer corps," he said. "We want to make sure we're promoting those who are trained, who are experienced and who continue to lead in the future."

But as the Army downsizes, it will seek to cut where it can to best reduce its numbers. There will continue to be officer separation boards over the next few years, Odierno said.

Chandler said the Army will retain the best Soldiers as it reduces in size amid these fiscal challenges.

Soldiers participating in the town hall were from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, I Corps, the 82nd Airborne Division, the Maneuver Center of Excellence, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the Sustainment Center of Excellence, and the 2nd Infantry Division.