SMA visits troops in Afghanistan

Monday, August 01, 2011

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler and Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin L. Hill, the senior enlisted member for the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, met with soldiers from the 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and their U.S. Army and international partners at Camp Spann, Afghanistan.

Chandler and Hill started their tour of the camp by recognizing soldiers from the U.S., German, Croatian and Afghan armies. Select soldiers, picked by their leaders for excellence, were awarded coins by the most senior enlisted adviser in the Army.

After the tour, Chandler addressed roughly 80 U.S. soldiers in the camp chapel. He talked about the state of the Army for enlisted soldiers, and covered topics from the repeal of the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy to the eventual downsizing of the force.

Chandler asked soldiers what they thought of the repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell." To each answer soldiers gave to Chandler’s scenario based questions, he replied, "That’s a good answer, because it’s yours."

"When I started asking those questions, did everybody start getting warm in here, because they were nervous? These things are going to make us uncomfortable and it’s different from what we have done in the Army in the past," Chandler said.

Adding, "You are agile and adaptable soldiers, noncommissioned officers and leaders. We want you to be uncomfortable because that is how you grow as a person and a leader," he said.

Chandler then talked about diversity. He said he was concerned about the number of female senior noncommissioned officers who applied for battalion and brigade command sergeants major positions in the Army.

Only 25 percent of eligible women chose to compete for the top enlisted spots.

"We have to have an Army where all people feel they can rise to the highest level they aspire to be. We are going to take a hard look at that," he said.

Addressing concerns about future downsizing of the Army, Chandler said senior Army leaders do not believe its right to, "tell you to hit the door after your service."

Instead, he said they plan to reduce the number of soldiers coming into the Army and require more from soldiers who want to re-enlist.

"We want to give as much leverage to commanders as we can to keep good soldiers in the Army. If you’re not doing the right thing, I’m going to tell you now we don’t have a home for you," he said.

Chandler thanked the soldiers for their service by saying, "Be proud of what you do and where you are. You are part of 1 percent of the population that chose to serve their country. The other 99 percent are at home eating popcorn and drinking beer."