By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 30, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 30, 2012) -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III visited Fort Rucker Aug. 22-23 to see the different training that goes on at the installation, as well as speak with Soldiers and Families about bringing professionalism back to the Army.
Chandler visited many of the training facilities on the post and said what he noticed most about Fort Rucker was the pride that the people of the installation took in their work.
"Pride is contagious and when you see young men and women excited about what they're doing … it's really uplifting and inspiring," he said. "That was really the best thing -- the people."
Chandler had the opportunity to observe and speak with Soldiers going through the different types of training from advanced individual training and the NCO Academy, to flight operations at Cairns Army Airfield and maintenance training.
"The conversations [I had with Soldiers] have been very uplifting and encouraging," he said, adding that he likes to talk to Soldiers about why they chose to serve, and what they think about the future of the Army and their place in it.
"As with most places that I've been to, the young men and women here are very excited about what they're doing," said Chandler. "They believe in [what they are doing] and are grateful and appreciative to be a part of something larger than themselves."
That appreciation is something that Chandler said was noticeable in the training of the Soldiers at Fort Rucker, adding that he was most impressed by a young air traffic controller at Cairns Army Airfield.
"There was a young sergeant who had been in the Army for four years and she was actually directing aircraft departures and arrivals," he said. "Out at the airfield, there is a whole bunch of aircraft taking off and landing, and here is a young woman … and she is in charge. I don't know about you, but that's pretty inspiring."
Chandler wasn't the only one that was inspired as his wife, Jeanne, also toured the base and conducted a meet-and-greet with Soldiers and Families at Bldg. 5700, visited the Munson Heights Housing Community, met with Munson Heights employees and members of a Family Readiness Group.
Jeanne said she was very impressed with the Munson Heights Neighborhood Center and the amenities provided to the residents by the facility and its employees.
"Thank you for all that you do," she said to the employees. "Having functions and activities, and providing these types of services is so important in order to support our [Soldiers and their Families]."
The Sergeant Major of the Army's visit to Fort Rucker wasn't just to tour the installation, however. He also came to discuss serious issues with Soldiers and Families ranging from sexual assault, hazing in the Army, and the stigma associated with seeking help.
"We're trying to make the blueprint for the nation by changing the cultural awareness [on sexual assault]," said Chandler. "We're trying to eliminate sexual assault.
He said that viewpoints must change and it starts with professionalism in the Army and the way Soldiers conduct themselves both in and out of uniform.
"The American people demand more from us than they do the rest of society," he said.
About 1,700 sexual assaults were reported in the Army last year, according to Chandler, but only an estimated third of all sexual assaults are actually reported.
"We're not going to leave anyone behind," he said. "This strikes to the core of who we say we are as professionals and our Army policy is to treat everyone with dignity and respect."
Hazing is another issue that Chandler discussed with the Soldiers and Families during a town hall meeting.
"We've had a policy about hazing since the mid 1980s. Hazing, it's things that you do that could be confused as a rite of passage that end up humiliating, injuring and intimidating a Soldier, and we've got a problem with this," he said. "It's unchecked behavior and we've got to police it up. We owe it to the person sitting next to us, we owe it to the Army and we owe it to the American people," he said.
After Chandler spoke on the issues of hazing and sexual assault, he took questions from the audience, one of which brought up the issue of the stigma associated with seeking help in the Army.
Chandler spoke of a near-death experience he had while deployed that affected him in a way that caused him to turn off his emotions to be able to continue his job as a command sergeant major. He said it affected him in such a way that he sought out individual and Family counseling.
"It made a big difference in my life," he said. "If I can be the Sergeant Major of the Army and be in health care counseling, you can be in whatever it is that you do, and get help and get counseling, and there is nothing wrong with that."
If a Soldier or Family member feels the need to seek help, Chandler recommends they do so and said that seeking help is a mark of personal courage.
"I had some help and it was good, and it has really made a huge difference in my life. I'm a better man, I'm a better husband, I'm a better father and, last but not least, I'm a better Soldier because of my counseling," he said.