By Vince Little, The BayonetApril 20, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga., April 20, 2011 -- The Army's new top enlisted Soldier made his first official post visit to Fort Benning, Ga., Saturday.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III was at Fort Benning for the 28th annual Best Ranger Competition, but also took part in a working lunch with 10 drill sergeants at the Kouma Dining Facility on Harmony Church. He discussed potential uniform changes, resiliency and Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, and noncommissioned officer accountability.
"During my travels, it is great to talk to junior Soldiers and NCOs (noncommissioned officers) to get their take on the Army uniform because I believe we should have a bottom-up approach," he said. "Drill sergeants are great to talk to because they have insight into all of the Army's uniforms. Overall, they gave me great feedback and it was a very productive session."
Within the next two months, Chandler said he'd present ideas to Gen. Martin Dempsey, the new Army chief of staff, for possible tweaks to the Army service uniform, or ASU, and Army combat uniform, or ACU.
Some Soldiers have complained about the white shirt and tropical uniform on the ASU. As for the ACU, the drill sergeants said it can't be worn elsewhere around post on a regular basis because it's difficult to keep clean in the field. The Velcro pockets sometimes wear out after a few months, too, and one suggested using buttons instead.
The sergeant major said no ACU pattern changes are forthcoming but asked whether they preferred the beret or patrol cap. A proposal has been floated to use sewn-on name and Army tags as opposed to Velcro. Some drill sergeants said they want the option of removing the insignia quickly in certain wartime situations.
Any Soldier may provide input on uniform issues at ww.facebook.com/SMAChandler.
Chandler, sworn in March 1, 2011, as the 14th sergeant major of the Army, said leadership is focused more on reinforcing tactical small units in hopes of neutralizing and taking away the enemy's comparable effectiveness at that level on the battlefield.
"We will make the squad the overpowering killer we need it to be," he said.
He talked about the unification of infantry and armor at Fort Benning, and praised the work being done here to groom Soldiers and leaders for combat under the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
"All the (Base Realignment and Closure) movement to Fort Benning is great," he said. "I sat on the design board as we began talking about bringing armor together with infantry for the Maneuver Center of Excellence. I am excited to see it all come together in the near future."
"It's a tough job down here," Chandler said. "You don't come to TRADOC to take a knee."
Some drill sergeants were concerned that new Soldiers aren't being exposed to the Army's master resilience training concepts quickly enough at the unit level prior to deployment. Chandler said there are a wide spectrum of programs - from traditional behavioral health to military and family life coordinators - and it's a matter of best maximizing available resources.
"(Comprehensive Soldier Fitness) is just a start," he said. "I personally see the program changing over a period of time after we get it into the force and do some assessments. It will help us in the long run. We've got to give it a little bit of time to grow."
The Army plans to institute a quality separation program for senior noncommissioned officers in the next two to three years, Chandler told the group. It's being set up to address physical fitness issues and offenses such as driving under the influence.
"The goal is to hold senior NCOs to a higher standard," he said. "It's about looking to their left and right to heighten and enforce those higher standards. The higher you serve, the greater the responsibility. With it should come a higher penalty, I believe."
Chandler's next stop at Fort Benning is set for August.