By Mollie Miller, 1st Inf. Div. Public AffairsSeptember 17, 2012
FORT RILEY, Kan. (Sept. 17, 2012) -- The power to make the Army of 2015 the best formation the nation has ever seen lies in the hands of every American Soldier, the Army's senior noncommissioned officer said Sept. 12, during a visit to Fort Riley.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, the 14th Soldier to hold the branch's top enlisted spot, urged 1st Infantry Division Soldiers to be the agile and adaptive leaders the Army needs to guide it into the future.
"You have got to engage, team," he said. "I trust that you will do what needs to be done because you are United States Army Soldiers."
Chandler, who was marking his second visit in less than two months to the Flint Hills post, spent the day traveling around Fort Riley, visiting with Big Red One troops, observing training and learning more about what is on the minds of America's Soldiers.
"It's always great to hear what the young men and women have on their minds," he said. "I get inspired by what they have to say, their level of understanding of the issues not only facing the Army but facing our nation. You really have to be impressed by them, by their professionalism and their desire to serve."
During discussions with all levels of division leadership, from private to general, Chandler covered a variety of topics ranging from the on-going troop drawdown and physical fitness test changes to suicide, hazing and sexual assault.
In response to questions about the impact of the troop drawdown that will find the Army reducing total Soldier numbers to around 490,000 during the next five years, Chandler said that there is a very deliberate process in place to ensure this transition is done in the most responsible manner possible.
"Our Army has been in transition for 237 years -- we have constantly been trying to improve our Army since we've had an Army," Chandler said. "We are going to manage this process so that we will still be able to react should the nation need us to grow again."
Although unable to comment on how much the drawdown will impact Fort Riley in particular, Chandler said that it is very likely that every single post will see some sort of reduction.
"You will see some changes; I'm not sure that they will be huge changes here at Fort Riley but there will be some," he said.
Chandler spoke at length at a variety of venues about suicide, sexual assault prevention and hazing during the day-long visit. The SMA said that he needed each Soldier in the Big Red One formation to stand up to these problems and commit themselves to doing their part to fix some of the Army's greatest "challenges."
"We can have all the training and programs and policies in the world but if we are not willing to accept our responsibility to step in when we see something isn't right, then we will not be able to turn the tide on (suicide, sexual assault and hazing)," Chandler said during an afternoon Town Hall meeting at the post's Barlow Theater.
Chandler urged Big Red One Soldiers and family members he visited with throughout the day to share what they had learned with their teams, squads, platoons, and friends to help the entire division family better understands what is important to the Army.
"Everything was important," said Spc. Keinan Rogan, 1st Sustainment Brigade, following the Town Hall meeting. "I'm going to bring this all back to my unit."
Rogan's wife Lucy accompanied her Soldier to the Town Hall and, with her husband, compared the experience to meeting the president of the United States.
"I don't know too much about the Army yet so this was a great way to learn more," Lucy said.
Pfc. Beatriz Rocha attended the Town Hall to clarify rumors she has heard about the troop drawdown and physical training test changes. She also had an idea about mental health screenings that she wanted to present to the Army's top noncommissioned officer.
"This showed me that (Chandler) really cares about his Soldiers," the young truck driver said. "Having the Sergeant Major of the Army come all the way out here to get our feedback shows us that our input matters."
Chandler said Soldiers like Rogan and Rocha are the strength of the nation and, as he travels the globe meeting men and women whom he calls his personal heroes, the senior noncommissioned officer sees a bright way ahead for the country's oldest branch.
"I am not concerned about the Army, not at all," he said. "We have an Army today that is just so much better than it was in 2001, that is prepared to do the things that the nation is going to ask us to do. I am excited about our future."