FORT HOOD — Budget cuts, the drawdown of troops, tuition assistance and the sexual assault response program were just a few of the topics soldiers brought forward to discuss with Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III during his visit to Fort Hood on Tuesday.
Chandler said he was very upset to hear about a noncommissioned officer in the Army’s sexual assault response program at Fort Hood being investigated for sex crimes. He described sexual assault as something the Army just can’t tolerate and must get better at preventing.
“Every soldier that’s in the Army considers themselves to be a professional — that’s a person of character, commitment and confidence — that are looking out for one another as far as being committed to ourselves and one another,” Chandler said. “When we have a breakdown, when a soldier has a crime committed against them, we’ve got to be concerned about it. ... We must address those concerns, because we are held to a very high standard by the American people.”
While this instance was tragic, Chandler said, there are many soldiers doing exactly what they should.
“The vast majority of our soldiers are living our values, our ethos, and are being the professionals we expect. We are going to handle the situation, and at the end of the day action will be taken,” he said.
After having lunch with troopers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Chandler toured a training area where 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was wrapping up a three-day gunnery exercise.
Chandler spoke with soldiers, asked them about their experiences and handed out coins and certificates of achievement.
Pvt. Michael Smith, a loader on a tank with the cavalry battalion, received his first-ever coin from Chandler for earning top gun recognition with his tank crew.
“The standard is set,” he said. “I know the standard and have to live up to it.”
That sort of training is what Chandler hopes can be saved despite ongoing budget cuts, acknowledging that leaders today are being asked to do more with much less.
“Our challenge right now in Afghanistan is retrograding the billions of dollars of equipment we have there, (which) is causing us to spend a lot more money than anticipated,” he said.
This is impacting nondeploying units the most, at least through September, because their training is being severely cut, he added.
“We are going to take some risks with units like this who are not deploying, because we’ve got great leaders, who make sure we maintain some level of readiness, so when they have the money that they need, they can rapidly turn that around and increase the readiness of their unit. I’m guardedly optimistic about the future after September,” he said.