SMA Chandler: Commitment turns people into professionals
On a crisp Saturday morning in January at the massive ski lodge style building that is the home of the Warrior and Family Support Center here, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III, decked out in his uniform with medals across his chest and stripes running up his sleeves, sits in an arm chair.
He is deep in conversation with a Wounded Warrior sitting in a wheelchair dressed in a windbreaker and tattered blue jeans his right leg elevated and bound in bandages. Chandler, a pad on his lap, periodically jots down notes as the young warrior speaks.
This was one of several informal one-on-one meetings Chandler had that day. His commitment to Soldiers drives him to make time in his busy schedule to listen to what they have to say.
That Saturday morning was the day of the Army All-American Bowl, one of the biggest recruiting events the Army conducts each year. By the time Chandler arrived at the Warrior and Family Support Center, he had already been going non-stop for almost two days, shaking hands with coordinators and coaches, greeting players and parents, and speaking with supporters and promoters.
For Chandler, it’s a personal commitment to the Soldiers who make up the Army. His commitment is even deeper for those warriors who have sacrificed their own health and well-being in service to the nation.
Chandler, who views commitment as a trait that every person, particularly Soldiers, should demonstrate, explains that he re-learned what commitment really means from Judith Markelz, director of the Warrior and Family Support Center.
Markelz is not someone the casual observer would immediately think of as an example to top military brass. A grandmother with no uniformed experience, carries herself with a drive that belies her small frame. She often jokes about her own disregard of pomp and customs, but is well known throughout the San Antonio community and beyond as a person who gets things done.
Markelz leads her staff and team of volunteers in setting the standard for how the military cares for its wounded warriors and their families. This example revolves around their seemingly simple, but often challenging, mission of providing a place of comfort and escape from the sterile and frequently stressful environment confronting those receiving treatment.
She explained that from the beginning she and her team have had only one goal and focus.
“Take care of the wounded warriors and their families,” Markelz said. “We aren’t here as fundraisers or tour guides. We’re here to make sure the service members and their families have a place to call their own. And that is what we’ll do as long as I am here.”
Markelz was humble about her role as the “leader” of the Warrior and Family Support Center. She laughed at the idea that the sergeant major of the Army viewed her as an example of committed leadership.
“I make sure everyone here knows our responsibility is to help the warrior and their family recover,” she said when asked how she manages to keep 10 paid staff members and countless volunteers on track and focused on their jobs. “If there is any confusion on that responsibility then they are free to go somewhere else. It’s as simple as that.”
Using the example Markelz has demonstrated, Chandler said he looks for that same commitment in himself and in the Soldiers he is charged with leading.
“Over and over again she’s been there for every person who walks through the door. She’s willing to do whatever needs to take place to make a person’s life better,” Chandler explained. “To see what Judith has done for the past ten years I have to take a step back and say, ‘OK, do I demonstrate the same level of commitment, care and concern for Soldiers that she does?’”
For Chandler, Markelz is a prime example of what commitment in leadership truly means.
But as another leader in the military, Command Sgt. Maj. Hu Rhodes, senior enlisted adviser for U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, pointed out, commitment is not a trait that only gets developed once a person is placed in a leadership position.
“Commitment is expected from all,” Rhodes said, “from the newest private to the most senior general.”
Chandler echoed this idea in that he expects all Army personnel -- enlisted, officer, and civilian -- to remember they are in the profession of arms, a profession which requires commitment to fellow Soldiers their unit, the Army, and the nation.
“The American people expect us to do our duty” Chandler said. And that requires commitment.