WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 24, 2012) -- With the successful completion of the mission in Iraq and a continued transition to Afghan security forces, the Army will begin to reduce force structure.

It will also identify the qualities needed by this downsizing force, said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III in a recent roundtable on Soldier professionalism.

"For me, there are three criteria to identify professional Soldiers:

-- competence, or the ability to do your job and do it well;

-- character: the understanding that a Soldier acts on behalf of the nation, rather than his or herself;

-- and commitment: which is a personal calling to serve in the Army and the nation, before all else," Chandler said.

Over the next six years, Chandler said the Army will reduce its active forces end strength from 570,000 to 490,000, which will include the reduction of at least eight brigade combat teams.

"We are committed to accomplishing these cuts in a controlled and responsible manner. But I want to stress -- even though we are in a transition, our mission has not decisively changed. It's to prevent war by our capacity, readiness and modernization, shape the environment in which we operate and when called to combat, fight and win our nation's wars, decisively," he said.

While the Army focuses a lot on competence, Chandler believes that character and commitment need a renewed effort and focus over the next several years.

"It's easy to see competence. You take a look at a counseling statement, or an evaluation, or you ask the Soldier a few questions about his or her job.

"It's not so easy to see character and commitment. For that, you really have to know someone. You really have to be that leader -- the kind who guides, mentors and leads by example.

As Chandler travels around the Army and talks with Soldiers, he said he talks about these three characteristics.

"And I talk about being professional. It is the cornerstone of being who we say that we are."

"Our Soldiers have shown this professionalism over and again the last 10 years of conflict. It's going to take professional Soldiers and leaders to tackle some of the issues we're faced with now: post-traumatic stress, post-traumatic brain injury, wounded warrior care, suicide, sexual assault and harassment, hazing, and to manage our drawdown and transfer, and transition Soldiers with dignity and respect back into the civilian world," Chandler said.

The Army must meet these head on, he said, to ensure Soldiers are not only receiving the care they need, but also are maintaining good order and discipline expected of the United States Army Soldier.

"I, along with the Army senior leadership, am committed to this and will not rest until we make significant and lasting improvements in all of these areas and more," he said.

Over this past year, Chandler, who said he's very proud to be part of the Army team, has traveled about 200,000 miles as the sergeant major of the Army.

"And wherever I go, I can't help but be in awe of the professionalism, dedication, and sacrifice our Soldiers, and our family members and civilians display every day. Our Army is quite frankly the best trained, best manned, best equipped, and best led force in our history," he said, adding that Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and he are proud of what Soldiers and civilians have accomplished over the past decade.

"We've proven ourselves in every engagement and continue to display the physical and mental toughness long associated with the word Soldier."

Chandler also said the Army has spent the last few years analyzing and dialoguing about how to use the experience gained from the past decade of conflict to better understand the Soldiers' role as professionals, from senior Army leadership down to the lowest private in the formation.

"Professionalism is built on a bedrock of trust -- the positive relationship between the American people that is based on mutual trust and respect. Only by military effectiveness performed through honorable service, by an Army with high levels of trustworthiness and esprit de corps, can the Army truly be a profession," Chandler said.