WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell has been the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for six months now.
Since being sworn as SEAC on Dec. 11, Troxell has made six trips with his boss, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, to 15 different countries.
"First and foremost, I have a responsibility to gain and maintain the pulse of the joint force," Troxell said. "That means I've got to get out and see the troops."
Every SEAC has a different relationship with the chairman, secretary of defense and Joint Staff, Troxell said.
"My relationship with Chairman Dunford is unique. He has a different vision on how to best leverage me in this position," Troxell said.
His role as SEAC also includes providing counsel to Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter on many of the same matters on which he advises the chairman.
"I have to balance what the chairman expects out of me and what the SecDef expects of me," Troxell said, adding that it's sometimes "tough."
"He doesn't call me sergeant major or SEAC, you know," said Troxell of the SecDef. "He talks to me like he's my father: 'John, I need you to go out and tell me what the troops think about Women in Service Review or transgender integration.'"
So when returning from a trip overseas, Troxell said, he brings home insight and guidance that will be useful to both senior leaders he advises, on topics like joint and combined total force integration and utilization, health of the force, and joint development for enlisted personnel.
Whether providing advice at the White House or serving as part of a joint working group, "I understand that I speak for every enlisted person in the Department of Defense," Troxell said. "And I can't take that lightly."
He said his most important duty is to be the voice of the joint enlisted force -- to stand up and tell senior leaders if a proposal doesn't make sense in the eyes of service members.
Troxell sees his position as an integral part of the Joint Staff. He must be available for "key battle-rhythm events" such as battle update briefs and especially for "Force of the Future" initiatives.
"Nothing says irrelevant more of a senior enlisted leader than a chair with their name on it that never has a body in it," Troxell said.
He must be also able to provide an enlisted perspective to the Joint Staff on the strategic challenges they work to find solutions for, such as deterring or denying potential adversaries, providing credible readiness built on training and modernization, and strengthening alliances with partner nations. He must also be able to take what he learns in Washington out to the field and explain it to the joint force.
"As an Army command sergeant major, I have to be comfortable going into a Navy organization or an Air Force or Marine or Coast Guard organization, or an organization that is predominantly civilian, and be comfortable talking to them about what's important with not only the Department of Defense, but also with the strategy we have and what we're doing to get after the strategic challenges we have," Troxell said. "That keeps me on the road a lot."
Troxell enlisted in 1982 as an armored reconnaissance specialist. He was motivated to join the Army after seeing three of his hometown friends return from their military training, two from Ranger school and one from Marine Corps Boot Camp.
"I saw that they were physically fit, disciplined, motivated, and carried themselves with pride, and said to myself, 'I want to be on that team.'"
Troxell grew up in Davenport, Iowa, and said the best thing about the place was its "small-town atmosphere. But he added that was also the worst thing about Davenport.
After enlisting and graduating from One-Station-Unit-Training at Fort Knox, Troxel's first tour of duty was in Germany. He served with the 3rd Armored Division there and then later served in Germany again with the 3rd Infantry Division. He had two tours with the 82nd Airborne Division with deployments to Panama, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. He actually had five combat tours, including two in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, Operation Desert Shield and an airborne jump into Operation Just Cause in Panama.
On one of his tours at Fort Bragg, Troxell served in the 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armored Regiment and his platoon sergeant was Sgt. 1st Class Joe Gainey, who went on to become the first SEAC.
Troxell's military education includes the Ranger, Airborne, Jumpmaster and Pathfinder courses, along with the First Sergeant's Course and two courses at the Sergeant Major's Academy. He also has a master's degree in business administration with a concentration in strategic leadership from Trident University in California, and he's currently a fellow at the Asia Pacific Center for Strategic Studies in Hawaii.
This is Troxell's sixth job as a command sergeant major. He began as command sergeant major of the former U.S. Army Armor Center at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and his last job was as command senior enlisted leader of the United Nations Command and Combined U.S. Forces in Korea. Before that he was CSM of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF Joint Command in Afghanistan.
For 10 years, Troxell conducted a senior-enlisted development exercise he called Mongadi. It was a 58-hour "mini-Ranger" exercise under adverse conditions, adverse terrain and simulated combat. The NCOs had to carry a "Ranger-heavy" load and got limited sleep. Troxell gave them ambiguous instructions on purpose, because combat today is conducted in a complex world. And the NCOs needed to build teams in order to accomplish the mission
"I called this validating our credentials to lead," Troxell said about the exercise.
"We've got to be trained and ready," he said.
All future conflict is going to be "trans-regional," meaning what happens in Iraq has an influence on what happens in the Sinai and elsewhere, he said. It's also going to be multi-functional, including air support, he said.
"So how can NCOs be expected to operate in a trans-regional, multi-domain and multi-functional environment?" Troxell asked.
They must understand the big picture and the commander's intent, he said, and they must be able to use all resources available to them, he said.
"You've got to be able to get out there and get after it," Troxell said, "because you may have to do it on the worse day of your life under combat conditions."
"I want the men and women of the joint force to know that I will work tirelessly in this job to ensure that they get the right training, the right education, right equipment and right compensation," Troxell said. "This is so they can best accomplish any missions assigned to them and that they have the requisite level of deserved quality life for them and their families that comes with being a member of the profession of arms."