By Sgt. 1st Class Anthony L. Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs OfficeMarch 26, 2012
CHICAGO, Ill. (March 26, 2012) -- Chicago welcomed many visitors this past St. Patrick's Day weekend from President Barack Obama to Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Amongst those visitors was also Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III. Chandler arrived to Chicago on March 16, to engage with local business leaders and organizations in discussing the importance of hiring veterans.
He also toured the Chicago Military Academy and met with Soldiers, to gain feedback on their concerns and to offer insight for the direction of the U.S. Army.
Chandler, accompanied by his wife Jeanne, arrived in downtown Chicago for an interview with Soldiers Family Radio & Television host Steve Tomaszewski, where Chandler began with explaining his role in the Army.
"I am a scout that travels the world to meet with Soldiers, and to talk with them about what is going on from the Army's perspective," said Chandler. "And to also take their concerns back to the Army so that Army senior leaders, such as Army Chief of Staff, General Raymond Odierno, and the Secretary of the Army, the Honorable John McHugh can make informed decisions from a Soldier and family perspective."
Presently, 1.1 million men and women serve in the U.S. Army along with 900,000 family members that support them. As the senior enlisted Soldier, Chandler explains that his responsibility, along with the Army chief of staff, and the secretary of the Army, is to represent each one of them.
"Less than one percent of the country can or is willing to serve in our Armed Forces," said Chandler. "Everything you hear or see in the media is only a snippet of what is actually going on around the world. You have tremendous men and women, and tremendous family members supporting these men and women that do things, asked by our nation, in places that are not easily identified on a map."
Jeanne Chandler, who met with about 15 Family Readiness Groups later that day, interjected the role that she plays in the Army for the families of the Soldier.
"I am a scout too," said Jeanne Chandler. "I meet with spouses and program directors all across the Army to inquire on how it is going and to find out what challenges they are facing."
She explained that resiliency training for Soldiers and family members can make a huge difference.
"We have been at war for 10 years, people are stretched, and I don't think people are born with a certain measure of resiliency," said J. Chandler. "Resiliency is about that ability to bounce back and to roll with the punches, and it is something that can be taught. I believe resiliency can help bring down the rate of divorces and suicides."
Chandler explained the importance of understanding and using educational benefits, such as tuition assistance and the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which can be transferred to immediate family members.
"I encourage every Soldier to sign up with eBenefits through the Department of Veteran Affairs, which allows you to see all benefits available to you," said Chandler. "Use and understand these benefits available to the Soldier, which have been provided to us by our country."
Over the next six years, the size of the Army is expected to reduce by 90,000 Soldiers. During this period, there will be a great deal of men and women who will need to find employment, explains Chandler.
President Barack Obama signed The Veterans Opportunity to Work Act, or VOW act, into law that is a series of initiatives and tax credits to help companies hire veterans. The Army, in partnership with the Department of Labor and the Department of Veteran Affairs, is working on a comprehensive Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, that will start a year before the Soldier leaves the service and will teach a Soldier how to prepare in a tight job market.
"Regardless of which generation of Veterans needs help, there are programs available to help Veterans seek employment," said Chandler. "After 10 years of combat, many have served the Nation with honor and dignity, and we need to do our best to help them as they transition out of the Army."
Chandler reinforced that Veterans are not looking for a handout, but these programs are in support of their faithful service to the nation. According to Chandler, only .67 percent of Americans are willing or able to serve in the Armed Forces today; so for that, we need to 'showcase the talents of our Soldiers to develop them as a productive member of society in strengthening the Nation.'
Chandler also visited the Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville, where he received an overview briefing and then was given a guided tour of the academy by Cadet Lt. Col. Steven Williams and Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Gaston, visiting classrooms and learning of the academy's history.
"Thank you for what you choose to do in being a part of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, and in becoming a better citizen for the future or our country," said Chandler. "You are our future, and we are proud of you."
By midday, Chandler arrived to the Union League Club of Chicago for a luncheon with the Chicago Community Advisory Board and industry leaders, to discuss jobs for Veterans and the views from the Pentagon.
"Soldiers come with a great set of skills, values, beliefs, and a strong work ethic but one tangible is the leadership trait and quality which greatly benefits businesses and corporations," said Chandler. "We work hard in the Army to develop that trait."
Chandler said that this military reduction is not as severe as the reduction from the 1990s, but that it has never been performed during a time in combat. The one-year TAP program separating the Soldier from the Army will be divided amongst different areas, providing assistance whether the Soldier decides to go to college, obtain a job, or join the Army Reserve or National Guard.
Chandler made a final stop at the U.S. Army 47th Street Recruiting Station on the south side of Chicago to meet with local recruiters. There he was greeted with about twenty-five recruiters along with the Chicago Recruiting Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Brian Bassett, and Command Sgt. Maj. Rod Shepard.
Chandler spoke to the group of recruiters for about one hour discussing topics such as the reduction of force in the Army, and Veteran's opportunities and benefits. Also addressed in the discussion were the changes that may take place for those remaining in the Army, such as changes to the Army uniform, the proposed Army Physical Fitness Test and changes to noncommissioned officer evaluation reports.
Chandler did comment that as of this time, no decision has been made to changes in the Army Physical Fitness Test but that endurance was expressed as a factor.
"I believe we need to have an Army with greater endurance. Soldiers need to be able to carry heavy equipment for long distances," said Chandler.
As tattoo markings exposed outside of the Soldier's uniform have recently sparked conversation through the Army leadership on what direction the Army may take, Chandler shared his thoughts on that.
"We are a part of a professional uniformed service, and we have standards that state we are all going to look generally the same," said Chandler. "It's about commitment, and you joined the Army team."
Chandler addressed several serious topics in the Army, such as eliminating sexual assault, preventing hazing and the commitment to taking care of Soldiers.
"If you are willing to accept violence brought upon someone else in uniform, then you don't belong in the Army," said Chandler. "It's about commitment to the Army profession and being a person of character. Do what you are supposed to do, even when no one is looking."
As the discussion came to a close, Chandler talked about the importance of education and the noncommissioned officer education system courses that are necessary in order for a sergeant to earn his or her next promotion. The online Structured Self Development course required learning, bridges the operational and institutional domains of Army training for enlisted Soldiers.
After the discussion, Chandler spent time taking questions from the sergeants and gave them with his coin for achievements in their assignments.
The following day, Chandler and his wife participated in the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade as co-grand marshals, and walked the parade route with Brig. Gen. Alton G. Berry, deputy commanding general of the 88th Regional Support Command, who attended in support of one of the 88th RSC bands, the 484th Army Band from Milwaukee, Wis.
During Chandler's time at the parade, he was able to meet with a group of the Chicago Recruiting Battalion's future Soldiers, who were preparing to leave for basic training.