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.”