Knox Command Sgt. Maj. preparing for return to dream job with I Corps
February 22, 2011
- Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell is leaving Fort Knox to join the team at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
- BRAC initiatives presented challenges for Troxell
- His boss, Lt. Gen. Freakley, may miss Troxell more than anyone
"I really want to get back in the fight," said Fort Knox's senior enlisted Soldier, when asked why he was going to a new assignment before his normal rotation time.
Anyone who knows him well will recognize that sentiment as typical coming from Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, who will be leaving Fort Knox at the end of the month to take the I Corps command sergeant major vacancy at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. I Corps, led by its Commander, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, will deploy to Afghanistan this summer to run the day-to-day combat operations for International Security Assistance Force Joint Command.
Command Sgt. Maj. Troxell knows the Corps' terrain well; he was the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division command sergeant major at Fort Lewis and Iraq before coming to Fort Knox in August 2008. He said the command sergeant major job at I Corps is his dream assignment.
He acknowledged that the challenges at Fort Knox have been significant, given the changes wrought by the mandated Base Realignment and Closure. But the first three tasks he tackled had little to do with BRAC.
First, he pushed for a printed Soldier Standards Handbook, which he said was important in order for Soldiers to understand what good order and discipline looked like.
Secondly, Command Sgt. Maj. Troxell believed that the senior enlisted leaders of the installation needed to develop some synergy in order to make Fort Knox a place where Soldiers and families would want to serve.
Third on his list was training.
"I knew I had an obligation to prepare those subordinate enlisted leaders to potentially either replace me or assume positions of increased responsibility, so I had to develop some professional development programs," he explained.
Those programs included the Mangudai warrior competition - now in the planning stages for its fifth iteration -the Physical, Mental, Emotional hard fitness, and the continuing growth of combatives.
The Mangudai competition asked senior enlisted leaders to persevere through some extreme training conditions - little sleep, less food, no luxuries like coffee or cigarettes - all while completing demanding warrior tasks. It took some cajoling, but after surviving the first competition, the leaders began bonding.
"I'm so proud of where we are in the installation now," Command Sgt. Maj. Troxell said. "I know that the 3-1 brigade command sergeant major can run into the 19th Engineer sergeant major at the PX and they know each other now. They've worked together, shared hardships with each other out on the Mangadai - starving and smoked from the heavy ruck march. When I look back, I am so proud of how all the organizations on the installation have come together to form Team Knox."
BRAC changes presented the next major hurdle for the sergeant major.
"People are not comfortable with change. It's almost as if the thought of getting them out of their comfort zones sets off a minor paranoia in people," he said. "That's the challenge, just telling people that we're going to get you out of your comfort zone, but it's going to be okay. You'll be okay, and your organization will be okay. Getting rid of that phrase -- 'but we've always done it this way' -- that was probably the biggest challenge."
Moving to I Corps will bring even bigger challenges.
I Corps sits on the newly formed Joint Base Lewis-McChord and is comprised of 11 brigade-sized organizations, three separate battalions, two Air Force airlift wings, 50,000 Soldiers and Airmen in a multi-service, multi-component (National Guard and Reserve units) and multi-commands --- Forces Command as well as Special Operations Command have units under JBLM's wing. The blending of Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base is a fairly recently development.
"They just reached full operational capability in October," Command Sgt. Maj. Troxell explained. "So there are going to be some of the same challenges developing synergy among all the senior leaders; they're still figuring things out. One of the things I'll dig into as we prepare to go to war will be getting the installation to continue to be on track as a joint base (during the Corps' deployment)."
Command Sgt. Maj. Troxell will be missed by many, but perhaps no one will feel his absence more than his boss, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, the Accessions Command and Fort Knox commander.
"I'll miss the teamwork," Lt. Gen. Freakley said. "He's such a charismatic, inspirational leader he inspires me to try to do better. He has high standards and he coaches, encourages, cajoles, directs, and demands that others meet that standard. More of us need to emulate Sergeant Major Troxell."
Command Sgt. Maj. Toxell said that JBLM will get the same four Es that Fort Knox has received (from him): education, enforcement, enthusiasm and energy.
"I wake up every day happy to be a Soldier, happy to throw on my PT uniform, do PT and then come to work and be around great Americans -- great men and women," he said. "I have yet to see where that kind of attitude towards serving has not been contagious."
Lt. Gen. Freakley said that attitude and passion for service is the hallmark trait of Command Sgt. Maj. Troxell.
"It's not about him; it's about his strong passion to serve our Soldiers, to serve our Army and to serve our nation," Lt. Gen. Freakley said.
Although he wanted the job at JBLM, Command Sgt. Maj. Troxell wasn't going to throw his hat in the ring if his boss didn't approve.
"If he would have said, "no, I need you here," that would have been the end of the story," he explained. "But he said, 'go for it,' giving me this great opportunity. I'm so grateful to General Freakley."
"A very clear message has been sent," Lt. Gen. Freakley added. "He is the right man for the job. He's the right man because he is a warrior. He understands combat, and the requirements of combat. He will help General Scaparrotti to ensure (that) the I Corps is as prepared as they can be. He will be a phenomenal voice for the Soldiers to General Scaparotti in combat operations.
"The other thing is that John and Sandra Troxell are as good as it gets as an Army family. They are the complete package. I'm proud of our Army for making this decision to select the Troxells. The whole command wishes him and Sandra the best, and God's blessings."
"Sandra and I are excited about this," Command Sgt. Maj. Troxell said. "To lead more than 100,000 Soldiers in combat in Afghanistan, that's just a dream come true for me."