FORT SILL, Okla. (Sept. 20, 2012) -- The Sergeant Major of the Army visited Fort Sill, Okla., last week, meeting with Soldiers and their families, and observing training on the installation.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III toured post as part of his visit for the Noncommissioned Officer Backbone Ball, Sept. 14.

Chandler attended Multiple Launch Rocket System training for 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery the same day, and was invited to shoot six rockets on the range.

After telling the Soldiers he was proud of the jobs they do, he was presented with a signed rocket pod cover from the unit and handed some of the unit's exemplary Soldiers his shield-shaped coin.

"My plans for the Army are to see it continue to be the best Army that our nation has ever fielded," Chandler said to reporters attending the event. "So, we're going to take direction from the president and the secretary of defense, and we're going to continue to make our Army even better than it is today."

He also discussed downsizing of the Army and retention of its best Soldiers.

"I'm very excited about it and proud of the efforts our leaders have made across the Army to retain the best qualified individuals," he said. "We've done an outstanding job to this point, and I believe we'll continue it into the future. With our retention program, we have really made a strong effort in eliminating those who really aren't the best qualified folks, and I believe we've retained the best qualified folks. So I'm really, really proud with where we are."

Chandler also discussed the future missions of the Army.

"It's to do whatever the nation needs us to do," Chandler continued. "Our focus is still going to be in Central Command area of operations and more focus in the Pacific, but our real strength is going to be our ability to do things that none of the other services can do."

He also mentioned that they are starting to regionally align brigades for overseas missions.

"Our first one will be next year with the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Africa, and we'll look to other places to do that around the world," he explained. "That shaping effort is going to help up to build partner nations capacity so that we don't have to go and fight."

With the changes in missions, comes what he believes is the biggest challenge for enlisted Soldiers and their families.

"One of the biggest challenges is to transition from 10, now 11, years of persistent conflict to being trained and ready to do something that may not be the same that we've been doing," he said. "I think that is some concern. What are we going to do next? We don't know that, so we got to be ready for all contingencies."

The sergeant major of the Army isn't just a position, he's also an advocate for Soldiers and their families as well as training, professional development and the Army's future.

He held a town hall meeting at the Graham Resiliency Training Center for Soldiers and their families to voice their thoughts and questions. Even after it was over and the crowd gone, Soldiers were still coming up to him to ask for advice, and he made the time to listen and offer counsel.

Chandler's wife attended the trip and participated in the town hall event alongside him.

"It's one of those things that you have to really remember the sacrifices that our family members make in the support of our careers and then look at your life priorities and where you want your family to be," Chandler said. "For me, my family is the most important thing. It's really not my military career. My family is going to be the ones who are with me even after I leave the Army."

One of Chandler's projects as sergeant major of the Army has been to promote the professionalism of the force, especially enlisted Soldiers, with the focus on structured self-development. This type of development will provide continuous learning for Soldiers when they enter the Army all the way until they leave, giving them the knowledge to succeed in their profession, according to Chandler.

"Being a professional is understanding that it's a lot more than just when you're wearing the uniform," he said. "It's about everything that you do, both in an out of uniform, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That your actions, and sometimes your inactions, that reflect against all of us that are in."

At the end of the day, Chandler wanted Soldiers to know he's extremely proud of them.

"It's really awesome to be able to serve with them and be a part of this Army," he said.