By Stephanie Bryant, U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii Public AffairsSeptember 23, 2011
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii, Sept. 23, 2011 -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III and his wife, Jeanne, met with U.S. Army Hawaii Soldiers and their family members, for the first time, Sept. 18-21.
Chandler's main goal for the trip was to update leadership, Soldiers and families about changes taking place.
More importantly, the SMA wanted to get feedback about these changes from Soldiers and to address their concerns.
"Our Army is really built on a foundation of trust," he said. "Trust between Soldiers and leaders, between leaders and families, and between the Army and the nation."
To efficiently and effectively meet with troops and their families, Chandler and his wife conducted five Soldier forums during their four-day visit. Forums were conducted at Aliamanu Military Reservation, Tripler Army Medical Center, Camp Smith, Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter.
The forum created a comfortable environment where the SMA, Soldiers and family members could express their opinions and ask questions freely.
Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Lopez, noncommissioned officer in charge, operations, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army-Pacific, attended the first Soldier forum, Sept. 19, at the AMR Chapel. As a Soldier and a military spouse, she was eager to hear how Chandler was going to address some of the concerns she and her comrades have.
"It is important for the Soldiers to know that (the SMA) is approachable and that he does care about what is going on with us down at this level," Lopez said. "A lot of Soldiers have questions, but are afraid to ask, especially, when it comes to topics like 'Don't ask, Don't tell.'"
Chandler addressed major topics like retirement, DADT and nine-month deployments. He then opened the floor for audiences to ask about any other concerns they might have.
Changes occurring in retirement dominated a good portion of the dialogue at the various forums, and the SMA assured Soldiers and families that he and the other senior leaders are committed to protecting their benefits.
"Soldiers need to trust the Army leadership," Chandler said, explaining "that (the leaders) are going to be an advocate for those programs that are effective and efficient for our Army. The senior Army leadership -- and I mean the Secretary of the Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army and myself -- are committed to maintaining the current retirement benefits for those who currently serve."
He added that Soldiers have to have trust in their elected officials and trust that they'll understand the service and sacrifice of Soldiers and families, especially during these last 10 years of combat operations.
In addition to the forums, Chandler and his wife dined with leaders and Soldiers, conducted meet-and-greets with various units and took time to tour the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.
While Chandler visited with key leadership, Jeanne took the opportunity to meet with spouses and family members, including a stop at the Shafter Elementary School library to read to children.
Before leaving Oahu, Chandler wanted to thank the Soldiers, family members and civilians who serve here in Hawaii and to assure them that he is taking the information and concerns he gathered back with him to Capitol Hill.
"Have faith that we are going to get through these troubled times ahead of us," Chandler said. "Our nation has troubles, and because the Army is a part of the nation, we have some challenges. We are going to meet those challenges, and we are going to be a better Army in the future than we are today, which is the best Army in the world."