SMA places emphasis on the professional Soldier

Story by Jacqueline M. Hames, Soldiers magazine

Sgt. Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III. (U.S. Army photo)

The Army will undergo many changes over the next few years, preparing for a smaller force and a smaller budget. That means that Soldiers will have to be more disciplined and take on more responsibility, especially noncommissioned officers.

“We’re going to be in some challenging times, but those times bring opportunities and we need to focus on the opportunities to do some things with our Army we need to do, and to make our Army better than it is today for the future,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III said.

The Chief of Staff of the Army’s “Marching Orders” list leader expectations that include being a moral and ethical compass and the ability to adapt and develop high performing teams — all expectations that are embodied by the NCO Creed, Chandler explained.

“You need to take those words and really internalize them and really put them in your heart, because it is an affair of the heart,” he said. “That this is who I am, and this is what I aspire to be, (to) be the example, the role model, the leader that our creed says.”

Chandler emphasized that, as stated by the NCO Creed, no one is more professional than a noncommissioned officer. As the Army moves toward 2020, that means NCOs will have to remain broadly skilled and be prepared to take on more responsibility as leaders.

“We’re going to ask them to be that critical and creative thinker, that adaptive and agile leader,” Chandler explained. “We’re also going to expect them to be grounded in the traditional role of the noncommissioned officer, and that’s about accomplishing missions and taking care of Soldiers.”

Part of that caretaker role is leading by example and ensuring that the principles of the Warrior Ethos are upheld. The professional NCO will not tolerate behavior like sexual harassment or hazing, Chandler said.

“For me personally, anything that has to do with violence perpetrated by one Soldier against another is just completely the opposite of who we say we are.”

In 2012, Chandler said the Army hopes to expand the NCO Education System and provide more time for education, teaching leaders at one echelon what they need to know and preparing them for their next job. Chandler predicts that the warrior, senior and advanced leaders courses will see some growth as well.

“What that exactly is going to be, we’re not sure yet, but we’ll continue to refine and assess the courses. What’s important to understand, though, is that the focus is really going to be on leadership.”

Of course, with budget cuts there will be fewer resources for training than in the past. Units will have to become more self-sufficient, relying on the eight-step training model and understanding how to plan, resource and evaluate. Training will become more of a unit responsibility, he said, emphasizing that there would still be a full investment in training dollars and the ability to go to school.

“We’re going to focus on unified land operations, what we used to call full-spectrum operations, and look at the entire spectrum of how we fight,” Chandler explained.

Programs for Soldiers and their families will also have to maximize the efficiency of their spending, Chandler said. However, he stressed that the Army’s senior leaders are committed to keeping as many programs as possible, especially those within the Army Family Covenant. The focus will be on streamlining programs, eliminating those that Soldiers and their families find least interesting or helpful.

“You’ll probably see some focus on the other quality of life programs, in military health care and in TRICARE, and in behavioral health. What we don’t want to do is cut anything before we understand its impact on the force and its value,” he said. “And if there is a way that we can combine programs to better deliver the same product, then we want to do that.”

One program that Chandler believes is critical is Comprehensive Soldier Fitness. The program was established to build resiliency in Soldiers, teaching them how to deal with adversity on emotional, spiritual and physical levels. “It’s not just about being a better Soldier, it’s about being a better human being.”

Additionally, the sergeant major of the Army discussed changes to what Soldiers will wear. For example, the Army plans to improve the physical fitness uniform using more technologically advanced materials, like anti microbial and moisture-wicking fabrics, as well as producing a better-fitting uniform.

“We’ll continue to make changes to our current Army Combat Uniform and we will explore a new uniform,” he said. “And we will be asking Soldiers how they feel about the Army Service Uniform and what changes they would like to see (to) it. Maybe folks want to display their awards, decorations and badges … in a different manner, so we want to hear what Soldiers have to say.”

The Army will be streamlining many aspects of its operations as it adapts for future requirements, Chandler said, both to improve the lives of Soldiers and accommodate budget and force reductions.

“We’re going to reduce the size of our Army in about four different ways,” he said. The first will be to recruit fewer people, second to retain fewer people, thirdly the retention control point will change at the sergeant and staff sergeant levels, and finally, retirement-eligible Soldiers may be asked to leave earlier than their mandatory retirement date.

It is a privilege to serve, Chandler said, noting that the expectations for retained Soldiers will be higher, so Soldiers will need to ask themselves two questions throughout their careers: Am I willing to serve? Am willing to do what the Army needs me to do?

“That could mean go to this place, it could mean change your MOS to this job, because there are going to be some changes in force structure, so there will be (fewer) opportunities in some MOSs and more in others,” he explained. “That comes down to that ‘being professional’ piece.

“At the end of the day, it really is about excellence. Those (who) demonstrate excellence in all manner of what we ask them to do as Soldiers, as citizens and (as) members of the United States (Army) is really what’s going to see them through,” he said.

Chandler believes that though the Army will be smaller in the future, it will be an even better Army than it is today, despite the challenges it will face.

“I’m proud to be sergeant major of the Army and to be a part of this, and to try and help lead and shape the Army into the future.”



  1. I think it’s ggod, we need even more proffesionalism in the military, especially for NCO’s and officer’s, though all soldiers should be expected to maintain a level of dignity, respect and as i mentioned before, proffesionalism.

  2. Yes,we need more professional soldiers! The military talks about a better quality of soldier, a more professional soldier,yet Recruiting high school drop outs and hoodlums to me is a poor way of finding these so called “professionals”. Ways around the ASVAB testing thru cheating,copies of ASVAB tests and answers handed out to help these drop outs into the military or even high school grads who cant pass the ASVAB test is a far cry from looking for quality soldiers.


  4. I have been following Chandler for quite some time. I like his ideas, his passion about NCOs and his concepts of leadership.

    In many respects, officers have failed to provide leadership in a number of areas involving Soldiers, esp. in terms of integrity. This must change.

    On the other hand, doing things right on a daily basis, supervising Soldiers to give their best and ALSO providing a great example must be emphasized.

    I hope his tenure is long. He will be presiding over a very tough next three years or so and we need people like SMA Chandler.

  5. NCO’s are not “tools” to accomplish a mission. I have heard this terminology used to describe the use of enlisted men to new officers. The use of the word “tool” implies the opposite of what SMA Chandler was getting at in his message. A tool is a dumb inanimate object that lays around waiting for direction and purpose. It does
    not think, has no opinion, and no ability to fix or create things without an outside
    intelligence guiding it. Sadly, I feel that many NCO’s internalize this philosophy and create inferiority complexes within themselves that hinder their ability to act autonomously. A degree alone does not separate the “smart” from the “dumb” or the “leader” from the “follower”. A degree is merely a proof of resolve and discipline
    to accomplish tasks. The NCO commonly falls into a trap of thinking that they
    are not smart enough. I have regularly seen NCO’s joke about this extensively.
    I hate it with all my soul. An officer is not born with a nobler or more advanced
    DNA strand. They are not more evolved then us. NCO’s should be encouraged to
    use their brains! I know as an infantry man, that the brain is exponentially
    more useful than your weapon system. The robotic NCO / enlisted man belong in
    the archaic past where D&C was used on the battlefield…“Right Flank March” …”Ready Aim Fire”. You get the point.

    My dream for a future military involves a true professionalization of the military.
    I think our current system is out dated and useful for a time long past. I think a good example for a true professional force, is to look at paramilitary groups which were created after the turn of the 20th century, namely the law enforcement community. We ended the conscription force over 30 plus years ago. Why do we still hang on to a system created for conscription as opposed to a volunteer force?

    If everyone entered as a recruit, had a one year probationary time as a new nothing soldier (post basic training) to further weed out the ones who couldn’t adapt, received pay bonuses for education, pay raises for experience, and extra pay for additional skills and duties, you would eliminate this culture of “ACU welfare” that seems to predicate itself like a disease in our great military. Degrees would still matter for promotion, but would not be the determining factor for leadership, intelligence, or competence. These qualities would be thoroughly assessed through performance evaluations in order encourage the cream to rise to the top. The grades of E-7 through E-9 would effectively be eliminated as a result of experienced “senior” leaders taking the place of green second lieutenants. There would be no more need for an “advisory” role. I also believe that after the one year probationary time, a soldier becomes an officer. Time served would be likened to how a commissioned officer serves. Time is owed based on skills or education accrued. In a volunteer force, why are we still required to be “non-commissioned”? It makes no sense to me. Do we keep that title for the title’s sake? Ranks should look like this: recruit (basic + 1 year probation) Private (ends probation period and receives commission), SGT, SSG, 2LT (able to attain in 6.5 years if the soldier is the crème de la crème), 1LT, CPT etc… Pay through a “step up” system should be the model of choice (reference a large law enforcement organization such as the NYPD). This encourages soldiers to stay where they feel the most job satisfaction. A soldier would be able to stay tactical for the majority of his career if he so chooses. The “automatic” promotions would be minimized. Today, the majority of line infantry men in a squad kicking in the door are green. Why? Because good competent soldiers quickly get promoted out of their positions before the next rotation. How much more effective would we be if people who loved being in a squad, stayed in a squad?

    I’m not saying I have all the answers. I just think that people should reevaluate
    how our system works. The military could save an enormous amount of money and
    enhance our professionalism by streamlining how we are structured. We should
    not have our current structure for tradition’s sake alone.