FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Feb. 12, 2013) -- Sergeants major heard from the Army's top noncommissioned officer about their role in managing Army dollars as budget concerns grow.

Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler III spoke to students Monday during the first day of the Army's Command Sergeant Major Force Management Course, at Fort Belvoir's Thurman Hall.

His speech and responses during a question and answer session touched on topics such as effective role modeling and understanding the Army's decision-making process.

"These sergeants major [in this course] have great knowledge and experience," Chandler said. "They're getting an education here that they can combine with what they already know. This is a powerful product that you deliver -- a knowledgeable [noncommissioned officer] who can help officers make informed decisions."

The Command Sergeant Major, or CSM, course is part of the Army Force Management School and provides a systemic overview of "How the Army Runs," according to faculty. It provides force management training and education to select officers, noncommissioned officers, Department of the Army Civilians and contractors serving in or selected for force management or related assignments Army-wide.

The CSM course is a four-day program, taught four times annually, to a maximum of 180 students. Throughout the course, students learn the how and why of specific actions taken by the Army. They also gain knowledge of how the actions of other organizations, such as the Department of Defense and Congress, impact Army planning and execution of plans.

As the Army braces for budgets cuts, program evaluations and manpower downsizing, command sergeants major will be an important part of the decision making process. Chandler said understanding the process is a key for CSMs to have an impact.

"Sergeants major have an impact on decisions at the most senior level," said Chandler, a former graduate of the Force Management Course. "Their knowledge and experience is going to help them make an informed decision, but you have to know how the process works. You've got to know how the Army works so you that you can influence where it needs to be influenced."

Chandler's dialogue with the CSM course students also touched on other topics, such as retention. As the Army continues to draw down forces, Chandler said a priority mission is retaining the most qualified and skilled Soldiers. A key component in accomplishing this mission is demonstrating effective leadership and role modeling, he said. Chandler, fellow sergeants major and other enlisted leaders within the Army must maintain accountability to positively influence troops.

Another important talking point during the dialogue was budgeting. Chandler said Army leadership will examine each program's feasibility and usefulness in order to maximize funds. To help the Army reduce cost while completing missions, he asks Soldiers and Families to inform their leaders of programs that are working effectively and ones that aren't.

"What we need to recognize is that we're not going to have as much money as we had in the past. As an Army we're going to take a look at being as efficient and effective with the dollars we do have, (in order) to maintain our readiness and the quality of the force we have," Chandler said. "So if [Soldiers and families] are providing the information, through the chain of command or through [Interactive Customer Evaluation] comments and town hall forums, we'll be able to save money and still provide adequate services."

He added that Army leadership is currently managing a number of actions to maintain a high quality of life.

One initiative he mentioned is the Transition Assistance Program. The Department of Defense, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Department of Labor partnered to expand transition services to lower the unemployment rate of the nation's veterans. Last November, under the VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) to Hire Heroes Act, the new commanders' program mandates that all service members begin receiving information about transition assistance no later than 12 months before discharge, providing more time and learning opportunities to prepare for life after the Army.

"We're helping Soldiers develop a plan a year before they leave the service and focus on whether or not they want to go to college, go to work, start their own business or pursue opportunities in the Army National Guard or the Army Reserve," Chandler said. "We're very excited about that program and what it's going to do for our young men and women as they choose to leave the Army."