BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Dec. 12, 2014) – Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III took one last chance to talk to about the future of the Army in an era of fiscal uncertainty with Soldiers deployed to Bagram Airfield and other locations in Afghanistan, Wednesday, in his final visit here before he retires and Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey becomes the 15th sergeant major of the Army early next year.
Being able to interact with Soldiers regardless of where they are located is a part of the job that Chandler says he’s very passionate about.
“There has to be someone in the Army that goes to where Soldiers are, listens to what they have to say, and brings it back to our senior leadership,” said Chandler. “A deployment is a pretty significant life event. So, I try to talk as much to deployed Soldiers as to Soldiers that are not deployed.”
Chandler encouraged Soldiers to ask him about whatever was on their minds. Soldiers at nearly every stop – from Kandahar and Kabul to Bagram, asked Chandler how the Army’s drawdown will affect them.
At a town hall at Bagram’s Morale Welfare and Recreation facility, a young NCO in the back of the crowded theater talked about the difficulty of getting promoted lately. Chandler explained that when the total number of Soldiers in the Army is reduced, the pace of promotions in certain military occupational specialties must slow down as well.
Chandler told the 300 Soldiers in the crowd, as the Army adjusts its size to meet congressional mandates, Army leaders will have to make every effort to distinguish those Soldiers with the greatest capacity to serve – which will include reviewing the records of different rank populations as part of upcoming qualitative management program and qualitative selection program boards.
“This year is the first year we will review both QMP and QSP for staff sergeants, regardless of time in service,” Chandler said. “In the past, we looked at senior NCOs, many of those Soldiers are close to or at retirement age. Staff sergeants may not be, but they are going to be reviewed if they are eligible for promotion to sergeant first class, and that is going to help us with that young sergeant’s question today of ‘why can’t I get promoted?'”
A senior NCO at another engagement asked Chandler if the Army was drawing down too fast. Chandler told him, “We’re not trying to drawdown. We’re being forced to make hard decisions to adhere to the sequestration law.” Chandler also said, “We need the predictablitiy of a budget and the repeal of the law before we can slow force reductions.”
Despite the challenges ahead, Chandler remains optimistic about the Army’s future.
“The Army has done well over the last 239 years, and I fully believe we will do well over the next 239 years, and it’s because of the great leadership, especially from the NCO population that sustained this Army through some pretty tough times.”
As his final town hall in Bagram wrapped up, he took a moment to reflect on his time as the Sergeant Major of the Army.
“After four years you get a little bit of perspective. I had an opportunity to see phenomenal Soldiers and leaders doing amazing things, and I couldn’t be more proud of their service and sacrifice and just as importantly their family’s sacrifice,” Chandler paused. “I have seen a lot of stuff, we got a great Army, I am going to leave it. I will be that old Soldier that fades away, but like many others, I will still be watching, and I know the folks that come after me will continue to make us better.”