By Chuck Cannon, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerFebruary 25, 2013
FORT POLK, La. (Feb. 25, 2013) -- Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler spent the day touring the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Feb. 21, getting a first-hand glimpse of training and visiting with Soldiers.
"I've come down to see what our Soldiers are doing on the rotation here, to see what the folks from the Joint Readiness Training Center and Ops Group are doing to help them prepare for their next mission, and then to spend some time with the Soldiers and families here," Chandler said. "I want to get a pulse for how things are going and what is on their minds."
Chandler began the day dining with Soldiers at the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, dining facility. Following the meal, Chandler headed to Joint Readiness Training Center's Fullerton Training Area and Forward Operating Base, or FOB, Sword. During his visit with senior noncommissioned officers at FOB Sword, Chandler asked for feedback to take back with him to Army leaders in Washington.
"How are we doing on rotations?" Chandler asked. "Are we feeding Soldiers that may be away from the FOB on some mission for a period of time; are you seeing things like that? Can we do that? I'm not saying that we've got to be as proficient as we were on September 10th, 2001, but are we seeing some level of proficiency?"
Chandler said that all he hears at Department of the Army are negative stories.
"It seems we always want to focus on the negative," he said. "I need to know what is working and what we need to fix."
While at FOB Sword Chandler observed visiting rotational Soldiers and Opposing Forces members of Fort Polk's 1st Battalion (Abn), 509th Infantry Regiment. He also dined with rotational Soldiers in the FOB Sword dining facility.
After lunch, Chandler paid a visit to the 162nd Infantry Brigade, where he was briefed on the work the brigade's Soldiers are doing to prepare Security Force Assistance Teams for deployment to Afghanistan. He then toured Fort Polk's Army Career Alumni Program where Transition Services Manager Tammi Culbreath briefed Chandler on the program's successes.
Chandler's message to leaders is to prepare to tighten the belt fiscally.
"Specifically here at Fort Polk, the Army is looking at reducing rotations for those units who are not on a deployment schedule," he said. "So we're going to take a hard look at whether or not we need to cancel some rotations as a cost-saving measure. There are some other effects along with that such as what will that do for that unit's readiness."
He also said the Army faces significant challenges.
"This fiscal crisis that we're in has to do with our ability to resource units to be as ready as we want them to be," Chandler said. "Our focus right now is on those units that are deployed, the next deploying units, and for the rest of the Army, it's really to focus on the most basic tasks until we can work through this crisis."
As for individual Soldiers, Chandler said there are four things that he'd ask them to focus on.
"First is training," he said. "Train as hard as you possibly can and focus on the fundamentals."
Next, he asked Soldiers to maintain and sustain the equipment they've been given.
"We spend a lot of money on maintaining equipment through our depots and other organizations," he said. "We're going to rely more and more on our Soldiers to maintain equipment. We need to make sure we are diligent with the money we have and our resources."
Third, Chandler asked Soldiers to remember they are professional Soldiers.
"Be proud of who you are and what you do," he said. "We want you to maintain that esprit de corps and professionalism that we expect of all of our Soldiers."
Last, Chandler said he wanted to remind Soldier that the Army is OK.
"We're in a challenge right now," he said. "We're working toward a solution with the Department of Defense and Congress to help get out of this place we're in right now. We're optimistic that we'll find some solutions.
"But focus on the fundamentals, sustain your equipment, and be proud of who you are and we'll be OK."
Chandler said that for Soldiers, every day is a "Hooah" day.
"That's what's great about being a Soldier in the Army, every day is different," he said. "There are a lot of things going on in the Army: Reducing the size of our force; keeping the best qualified folks focused on the Army professional, obviously a big thing that I'm very personally engaged with; as we move into the next quarter of the year, focusing on customs, courtesies and traditions in our Army, a very important part of what we are and what defines us as a professional Soldier.
"I'm excited about the future and what we're doing."