Army Sergeants Major Academy commandant will succeed Preston
Army senior leadership announced Feb.7 that Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond F. Chandler III will serve as the 14th sergeant major of the Army.
Chandler, who enlisted in the Army in 1981 as an armor crewman, currently serves as the 19th commandant of the Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas.
He is the first noncommissioned officer to serve as the academy’s commandant.
He will replace Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston as the Army's senior enlisted adviser and spokesman of the enlisted corps.
Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., president of the Association of the United States Army said, “The Army has selected an outstanding noncommissioned officer to become the sergeant major of the Army. Command Sergeant Major Chandler has, throughout his distinguished thirty-year military career, served his nation, his Army and the NCO Corps as a warrior, leader, trainer, educator and mentor.
Adding, “He will be an effective and eloquent spokesman as he represents our noncommissioned officers, our soldiers and their families on Capitol Hill, and with the civilian and military leadership of America’s Army during these challenging and demanding times.”
Sullivan also said, “Our Association and its over 105,000 members worldwide sends its thanks, respect and admiration to Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston – the longest serving soldier in this critical position – for all he accomplished while continuously travelling across our Army visiting our soldiers and their families and improving their quality of life.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmie W. Spencer, USA, Ret., director of AUSA’s noncommissioned officer and soldiers programs, said, "The selection of Command Sergeant Major Raymond Chandler to be the 14th sergeant major of the Army is great news on two levels.
“First, he is the right person at the right time for the Army NCO Corps. As the first noncommissioned officer selected to be the commandant of the Sergeants Major Academy, he has played an important leadership role in the transformation of how we train and educate today’s NCOs.
“Secondly and on a more personal note, he is a long time supporter of the Army's professional association: the Association of the United States Army. And, I consider him a friend. We are lucky to have him."
Chandler will be sworn into the new position March 1 in a ceremony at the Pentagon.
"We have the utmost confidence in Command Sergeant Major Chandler and look forward to having him join our leadership team," Secretary of the Army John McHugh said. "He has the right qualities and credentials to assume this vitally important duty that Sergeant Major of the Army Preston has skillfully and adeptly performed for the last seven years."
During his career, Chandler has served in tank crewman positions and has had multiple tours as a troop, squadron and regimental master gunner.
"It's huge shoes that I have to fill, following Sergeant Major of the Army Preston," Chandler said. "But I am humbled and excited about the opportunity. And we'll see what the future holds, and what soldiers and families tell me we need to look at – and I'll work that with Army leadership to try and make those changes that best support them."
Chandler said he knows some of the challenges he'll help the Army face while serving in this position are the same the Army is working on now: maintaining the force, reconstituting the force and building resiliency in the force.
"We have got to maintain the combat-seasoned force that we have been so successful at sustaining over the past nine years," Chandler said. "We have an Army that is unparalleled in its lethality and its willingness and ability to conduct operations around the world. So I think that is the first thing, to maintain the combat-seasoned force."
Chandler also said he knows it's important for soldiers to have more dwell time with their families.
"This has been a very difficult and long war the Army has been in, and we have some work to do to help it reconstitute as we build dwell time over the next couple of years," he said.
The new sergeant major of the Army is also impressed with efforts the Army is making at building resiliency into the force – in particular with the Comprehensive Solider Fitness (CFS) program.
"Programs like CSF and the new Master Resilience Training that we are developing for the Army and producing for the Army, along with the Army Family Covenant, are going to help us build a more resilient force for the long term," he said.
Adding, "We are in a period of persistent conflict and this is not going to go away anytime soon – so we have got to build a more resilient force that can see us through the challenging times."
Chandler also said he's fortunate to have participated in developing at the Sergeants Major Academy some of the concepts driving noncommissioned officer development today – including the advancement of structured self development.
"One of the things I've been fortunate to partake in while here at the Sergeants Major Academy is to really understand SMA Preston's vision for the NCO Corps," Chandler said.
"Structured Self Development ... [was] built here at the Sergeants Major Academy, and I have been intimately familiar with that process and where we are trying to go. From my perspective, I will continue to sustain and move forward those initiatives that have started with SMA Preston."
While Chandler said he's familiar with some of what he'll be working on as the next sergeant major of the Army, he also said that he is not bringing his own agenda to the job – and that he serves at the discretion of the chief of staff.
"I have no priorities at this point, except to provide predictability for soldiers and their families," Chandler said.
"I do not come into this position with some set agenda or group of things that I personally want to fix or look into. I serve at the whim of the CSA and he is going to tell me what he wants me to focus on, and from there I move forward," he said.
Chandler will likely serve the bulk of his time as sergeant major of the Army alongside Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, currently the commander of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
Dempsey was nominated to be the next chief of staff of the Army and his appointment is pending Senate confirmation.
Chandler and Dempsey share a working relationship today – Chandler's position as commandant of the academy falls under Dempsey's TRADOC.
They have also worked together as part of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. There, Dempsey was Chandler's regimental commander, while Chandler served as a first sergeant in the regiment.
Chandler was chosen as the next sergeant major of the Army by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. That selection is something Chandler said he never considered during his career.
"I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever even be in a position to be considered for the SMA," Chandler said. "So, I never dreamed about being SMA, or thought about it. For me, I was a squadron command sergeant major in combat. And that is what I aspired to do. Since that time I have had a series of other assignments that have challenged me and helped me to grow as an NCO and as a person."
When serving as sergeant major of the Army, Chandler will spend time on Capitol Hill, discussing Army needs and concerns before both the Senate and the House. He will also likely meet with the President of the United States, and will spend much time traveling alone and with the chief of staff of the Army to visit soldiers and their families throughout the Army.
Chandler said the new role for him will not distract him from what he is at his core.
"I am a soldier – and I happen to be a sergeant major," Chandler said. "But that doesn't change the fact that I came from the same rank and the same position that those young privates and sergeants and first sergeants are in today. And that's the tie that binds us together – those shared experiences.
“There is a responsibility to represent the Army at various events and engagements. But at the end of the day, my place is with the Soldiers and their families in the Army and that's where I intend to be."
(Editor’s note: This article is based on a story from the Army News Service.)