Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler said soldiers need to embody trust, military expertise, honorable service, esprit de corps and stewardship. (Colin Kelly/Staff)
Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler, who is focusing on building strong leaders and a strong Army, spoke to Army Times about his priorities for the coming year.
Here are excerpts from the interview in mid-October:
Q. What are your priorities for 2014, and what can soldiers expect during this fiscal year?
A. This year’s theme is “Stand Strong,” so throughout the year, I will remind soldiers and leaders that being an Army team member challenges us to develop into professionals.
Our way ahead is clear — the Army will be and perform as a profession only when we choose to embody five essential characteristics: trust, military expertise, honorable service, esprit de corps and stewardship.
These must be present in our culture, our team members, our units … and our commitment to self-police those who do not live up to these standards. When we make the choice to be an Army professional, it cannot be words alone.
[Noncommissioned officers] also need to remain focused on budget concerns. That includes training dollars, maintenance of their equipment and a soldier’s personal fiscal resiliency.
Leaders should continue to develop and mentor soldiers — instilling character, commitment and competency in each of them. Leaders can best do this by setting, communicating, enforcing and, most importantly, complying with standards. They must lead by example.
Another priority is our Ready and Resilient Campaign. We will continue to provide resources, training and information to help soldiers, families and our professional civilians stay Army Strong. This includes master fitness trainers in every company, and more master resiliency trainers, including spouses who fill a very important need.
Q. What role will self-development play in soldier development?
A. A critical aspect of our NCO 2020 plan is to realign professional military education with promotion eligibility. With the introduction of Structured Self-Development, our intent is to formally link SSD completion with promotion eligibility. SSD is required learning that continues throughout a career and is closely linked to and synchronized with classroom learning.
The Army G-3 established a linkage of SSD completion to resident [Noncommissioned Officer Education System] attendance. We can now link completion of SSD to promotion eligibility. This means that soldiers must be personally committed to complete these requirements. Leaders can and should encourage and support their soldiers’ efforts, but ultimately a soldier’s future will be in his or her own hands.
Q. What can soldiers expect as the drawdown is accelerated, and possibly expanded, in coming years?
A. For those who are currently serving and doing a good job — demonstrating their competence, commitment and character — there will be no change. However, if a soldier cannot or chooses not to live up to our Army standards and Army values, they should be prepared to leave the Army. Our NCOs have been doing a great job of enforcing those standards — and identifying these soldiers. Because of this, we have had very few soldiers identified on our [Qualitative Service Program] boards.
As we become smaller, we need to ensure that only those soldiers who are committed to defend our nation should fill our ranks. The American people understand and support this.
For those who are leaving the Army, we will continue to ensure they are provided the tools and resources from our transition programs to help them be successful, whether that means getting an education, starting a civilian career or learning how to start their own business.
Q. What can soldiers expect in regard to the availability of professional schools and training?
A. After 12 years of persistent conflict, our Army NCOs are the best trained and most operationally ready in our 238-year history. But we know that we must be prepared for a complex and evolving defense environment in the future. As part of Army 2020, NCO 2020 is the road map that will allow us to modernize the professional development of the NCO Corps.
Our Army will always have the availability of training. Over the past 12 years, we’ve had school seats, but many in our force had conflicts with coordinating schools and training with the needs of an Army in persistent conflict.
Over the past two years, we have seen an increase in the numbers of soldiers available to attend schools and training. Even with these increases, we still have seats available. If a soldier is required to be trained to fill a position, he or she will get that training.
Q. What will be the importance of assignments such as drill instructor, recruiting, broadening assignments, etc., for career development?
A. Assignments like drill sergeant, [Advanced Individual Training] platoon sergeant, NCOES instructor, Warrior Transition Unit squad leader and recruiter give soldiers the opportunity to broaden their skill set, making them a better candidate for promotion and, ultimately, more demanding and challenging assignments.
We’ve made similar changes for our most senior NCOs. Instead of remaining in a series of command sergeant major positions, they’ll now be required to seek a staff sergeant major position or sergeant major broadening assignment, such as serving as a legislative liaison. This will ensure they remain agile and adaptive, with a better understanding of how our Army runs at the strategic level.