Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

January 6, 2015 at 7:00pm

Army leadership engage soldiers during virtual town hall at Google Headquarters

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, right, listens to U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno answer a question during a virtual town hall at the Google Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2015. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkl

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U.S. Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler held a live virtual town hall meeting at the Google Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2015.

For a little over an hour the Army leaders - speaking over a webcam - took questions from soldiers stationed around the country and around the world - including members of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Spc. Marabello of I Corps asked the two senior leaders about health care. She pointed out that U.S. troops are often deploying to environments with high concentrations of parasites and communicable diseases. She asked what the Army is doing to prepare soldiers for these dangers, and how they treat the afflicted. Recent deployments to West Africa to help contain Ebola - along with soldiers and airmen at JBLM currently undergoing quarantines after their return - have brought health issues to the forefront.

Odierno told her it's been a challenge. He explained soldiers returning from overseas are asked to fill out questionnaires, but he acknowledged they've had mixed results. "It's right when you get home from a deployment, you're in a rush, you don't want to take the time," he said. But Odierno stressed soldiers need to take the time to report any changes or symptoms.

It's about knowledge.

A soldier from Fort Lee, Virginia, asked how social media and quick spread of information are changing Army leadership. "Everybody has to realize that the world we live in has changed significantly," Odierno answered. "Like it or not, everything we do is going to be much more public."

He explained they need leaders who can comfortably navigate the new media landscape of the information age. But, Chandler weighed in and said the best way to communicate is still face-to-face contact where people actually talk to each other. He warned that intent could be misinterpreted in text and e-mail conversations.

It is indeed another a changing world.

A soldier with Ft. Benning's Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade asked about the prestigious Ranger School accepting female candidates and women wearing Ranger tabs. "What do you define success as?" he asked.

Odierno answered there was no criteria for success or failure, explaining that it's about giving women the opportunity to go through the program with the same standards as the men, and letting the results speak for themselves.

Chandler turned the conversation to the instructor, asking him how he felt about it based on his experience.

"It's a great idea," the soldier replied. "I feel like this is something that could have come along years ago."

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