FORT IRWIN, Calif. (Feb. 25, 2014) – When the Army’s senior non-commissioned officer asks for opinions, it could be a once-in-a-career opportunity for Soldiers to make a difference for themselves, their units, their families, or the Army.
That opportunity took place when Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III visited with leadership, Soldiers, families and community members of the National Training Center, known as NTC, Feb. 19-20. As one of three Army combat training centers, the NTC trains combat brigade teams for deployment and readiness. He acknowledged the significance of the NTC for rotational training units and the individual Soldier.
“The NTC supports our profession by testing the mettle, by testing the individual, by testing the leadership to ensure they can accomplish their assigned missions,” Chandler said. “And it also helps them grow as professionals [through] the take home package — where they’re going to take the information they received here. Not only their successes, but their failures and they’ll look at how they can grow and develop as an organization to fight and win our nation’s wars.”
As the senior enlisted advisor to Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno (who visited the NTC in January), Chandler represents Soldiers at the highest levels at the Pentagon and in Washington, D.C. He collects information and recommends quality-of-life improvements to Army leadership. He also sits on numerous panels and councils that make decisions affecting enlisted personnel and their families and testifies before Congress on these issues.
At one of Chandler’s first meetings here with junior enlisted Soldiers, he spoke about the Army profession and the personal traits required for service members to be considered professionals. He asked Soldiers for definitions of character, commitment and competence, and spoke lightheartedly with them when passing out coins.
“What’s on your mind?” Chandler asked the group of approximately 25, who came from various units on post. Soldiers inquired about the possibility of receiving a cost of living allowance for being stationed here, which some Soldiers and families consider a remote location. Several Soldiers voiced concerns about reclassifying to different military occupational specialties — a possibility some Soldiers face as the Army continues to downsize. Chandler informed them that their general technical (GT) scores on the Armed Services Vocational Battery test would help determine reclassifying options. He advised Soldiers to increase their scores to at least 110 through the Functional Academic Skills Training courses, which are available at no cost.
Chandler also had lunch with 10 junior non-commissioned officers and discussed several topics. He mentioned that with deployments winding down, there would be more time for Soldiers to train at home stations. As NCOs move up the ranks, they should consider assignments such as recruiting and drill sergeant duty to broaden their skill sets and learn more about the Army.
On his day on post, Chandler, who has 32 years of service, toured the Fort Irwin garrison and the Mary Walker Clinic. At the post helipad, he met with Soldiers of the 2916th Aviation Battalion, a unit that provides air medical evacuation to the community and support to the training mission as well. In the late afternoon, he held a town hall with the community and asked for feedback.
On the second day of his visit to this high desert military installation, Chandler went to the field to meet with leadership and Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. The “Ironhorse” is conducting a decisive action rotation that pits the unit against an opposition of 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Soldiers, who realistically roleplay as conventional forces, paramilitary, guerrilla forces, and criminal elements. His final meeting took place with senior NCOs of this installation to discuss his thoughts from the visit.
Throughout the visit, Chandler’s messages to NTC Soldiers consistently included that the Army will continue to provide trained, equipped and ready forces, and shared his prescription to cure the challenges to the force.
“We must address challenges to the Army profession through engaged leadership, commitment to the Army profession and self-policing,” Chandler stated.