YONGSAN, South Korea (Nov. 27, 2014) — The 14th Sergeant Major of the Army personally thanked Soldiers at stops in Camp Kim, Camp Humphries, Camp Hovey and Camp Casey in Korea Nov. 26 and 27.
The trip by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III was highlighted with visits to the 210th Fires Brigade’s Thunder Inn at Camp Hovey, and the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team’s Iron Café at Camp Casey, both units of the 2nd Infantry Division. While visiting each dining facility, the SMA recognized Soldiers, served Thanksgiving meals and he and his wife, Jeanne Chandler, mingled with Soldiers far from home on this holiday.
In his final Thanksgiving as sergeant major of the Army, Chandler said it was important to recognize and visit Soldiers serving in a forward-deployed assignment far from home — particularly those who volunteered to join the Army following the events of Sept 11, 2001.
“Those who joined over the last 10 or 12 years faced a much different set of circumstances than I did when I joined the Army. I joined during the Cold War, and my first assignment was in Germany,” said Chandler. “My biggest concern as a young Soldier was whether I had enough money in my pocket on a Friday night to go have a beer. The Soldiers who joined over the last decade (plus) knew they were volunteering to most likely be put in harm’s way.”
While serving in Korea is not the same as deploying to a combat zone, the SMA recognized that as America’s only forward deployed permanent unit, those in the units comprising Eighth Army face similar, but unique challenges.
“Eighth Army is a war-fighting theater Army headquarters, partnered with the Republic of Korea to preserve an armistice — an agreement to cease-fire while a permanent peace can be negotiated, but that could end at any moment,” he said. “So Soldiers here have to be ready to fight tonight, and ensure we can win.”
Chandler served Thanksgiving meals at the Thunder Inn, mingled with Soldiers, and had personal photos taken for any of the Soldiers who wanted a picture with the sergeant major of the Army.
At the Iron Café, Chandler focused his time on speaking with Soldiers, answering questions in a one-on-one setting and ensuring everyone who wanted a photo with him was able to have their image captured so they would have something tangible to remember this holiday in years to come.
During the first day of his visit to Korea, Chandler spent the day touring units in Seoul and Pyongtaek.
He started the day with recognition of the Soldiers who are part of the Special Forces Korea, and the 39th U.S. Special Forces. There he received a briefing from senior NCOs and recognized NCOs for their service.
He followed this with a trip to Camp Humphries and the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and a Town Hall discussion with a packed house at the Camp Humphries Post Theater.
While at the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, Chandler was shown the four different aircraft platforms currently operated by the “Talon Brigade” — the CH-47 Chinook, the AH-64 Apache, the OH-58 Kiowa, and the UH-60 Black Hawk — as NCOs who work on each platform demonstrated their knowledge of the aircraft they spend so much time with.
While some displayed their anxiety at briefing the most senior enlisted Soldier in the Army with shaky voices as the briefings started, their voices grew stronger as each Soldier spoke about the particular aircraft they work with as they continued to answer Chandler’s questions.
Following the briefing on the helicopters flown by 2nd CAB, the SMA opened the floor to questions from the Soldiers.
While some charged with briefing the SMA showed some nerves, others were glad for an opportunity to ask him about questions like the Army’s tattoo policy, or AR 670-1 published this past spring, and still others were just glad to see and hear him.
“For him to come out and put information out to the Soldiers, I think it was very important, and refreshing to see,” said Staff Sgt. Ivette Figueoroa, 2nd CAB.
Directly after the questions were answered at 2nd CAB, Chandler moved to the post theater where he hosted a town hall. He spoke on the Army Profession and Ethic, the U.S. Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, and suicide prevention, before opening the floor to questions.
While using an informal style with no slides to make his points, Chandler picked Soldiers from the audience and asked them questions to illustrate the Army Profession and Ethic. He started the session with a brief video, and then picked a junior NCO from the audience to come up and answer questions one-on-one about what he had learned in Basic Training and Warrior Leaders Course about the Warrior Ethos and Army Values.
Chandler then picked another Soldier from the audience, had her identify a battle-buddy, and asked questions about that Soldier from the battle-buddy she had identified. The main point was that battle-buddies look out for one another and know more about that person than you can find in a training file — they are engaged and committed to each other’s welfare.
He then used these discussions, and the main points to come from them, to address both sexual assault and suicides within the ranks.
“It is this kind of dedicated, engaged leadership, and a commitment to the Army Profession and Ethic … that will have the most impact on these issues,” said Chandler. “They will be more effective than any policy senior leadership can enact to address these issues.”
After this, he opened the floor to questions and answers, and closed the session by recognizing 20 Soldiers in front of the gathered audience with coins, having each of the Soldiers state his or her name, their unit, and explain what he or she had done to earn this recognition. Some of the reasons included, improving a PT score significantly in a short period of time, earning honor graduate at Warrior Leader Course, and dramatically improving command supply discipline within the unit.
Regardless of the individual reasons, the SMA told the audience each had been chosen by their leadership for the recognition because they had shown character, competence and commitment.
He closed the meeting with a simple message to the Soldiers there.
“Thank you for what you do,” Chandler said. “Each and every day we ask you to do something more and you do it. You continue to demonstrate here and around the world what makes this Army excellent, and it is the American Soldier.”
Following the town hall, the SMA allowed anyone to take a personal photo with him, and nearly 200 Soldiers chose to do that, with a line stretching nearly out the front door of the theater.