JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas – Command Sgt. Maj. Trevor C. Walker leaned back proudly in his chair behind his desk. His office walls, that hours before were covered with nearly three decades of artifacts and memories, now stood bare.
“The military is a place where you have to want to be part of something bigger than yourself,” said Walker, U.S. Army South’s senior enlisted advisor. “That's why I've been in the military for 32 years.”
Tomorrow, after a long, illustrious career, Walker will move on to the next chapter of his life: retirement.
Walker explained that he was born in Mount Clemens, Mich., but grew up in the small village of North Fond Du Lac, Wisc., where he played football and baseball, wrestled and ran cross-country. He and his three brothers were raised in a lower-middle-class family with a history of military service.
“My grandfather, Sgt. Robert Walker, fought in the Korean War, and my father, Spc. 6 William Walker, was drafted during the Vietnam War,” said Walker.
His family’s lineage of military service wasn’t what influenced Walker to join the U.S. Army. The negative effects of being a “jock” and the team and warrior mentalities from playing sports led to his decision of enlisting at age 18, even declining multiple football scholarships.
“Even though I was doing well with football, I was a borderline alcoholic,” Walker said. “I was a freshman playing on the varsity team, and after every game, they invited me to the parties and I would drink.”
Walker initially intended to do one four-year service contract and get out.
“I wanted to join the Army, get disciplined, get right and then get out and go to college and play football.”
Even with Walker's good intentions, his father's negative experiences after returning to the U.S. during the Vietnam War led to a conflict between them about his choice to serve.
“My mom was impartial to me joining the Army, but my dad hated it and we got into a bad fight,” he said. “I wanted to join at 17 with the delayed entry program, but my dad wouldn’t sign the papers.”
His father deployed to Vietnam, but he was chosen to compete on the Army Marksmanship Team because of his exceptional marksmanship. Even though Walker’s father did not fight in Vietnam, he endured the negative anti-war sentiment from the U.S. public.
“He told me stories where he would get spit on when he got home,” Walker said. “He had to grow his hair out and grow a beard before returning to the U.S. so he couldn't be deemed a military member. He was looking out for my best interests.”
Despite his father’s opposition, Walker enlisted in September of 1989 as a combat engineer.
His intentions to return to college football quickly faded after his combat experience during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. Walker grew up fast at a young age.
“When you go to war for the first time at 19 years old, and you're getting shot at and seeing dead bodies, your perspectives change,” said Walker. “It made me think about my legacy, what I have at home and what I have to live on when I pass.”
Walker met his wife in the seventh grade, and they first dated in high school. They reunited while he was home on leave after his first combat deployment; they got married in his hometown in 1991.
With his wife’s support at home, Walker’s career accelerated over his five deployments and 20 assignments, which required him to grow into the positions he was assigned. For example, he won Sapper Stakes, a combat engineer competition, and led a squad as a corporal. Later, he deployed to Afghanistan to clear mines, despite not having prior experience.
“I really had no idea what I was doing at the beginning,” said Walker. “We did weekly meetings with NATO, and I had an Australian major with me to help coordinate everything and bring it all together. But before you know it, we controlled all of the mine-clearing across Afghanistan.”
Throughout his illustrious career, Walker traveled to 13 countries and completed 21 military schools and courses, including Sapper Leader Course, Basic and Advanced Airborne School, Master Jumpmaster School, Air Assault School and Pathfinder School. While serving, he achieved an Associate of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Central Texas College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice.
Walker refined his leadership style through the years. He went from the brash, in-your-face sergeant to the wise, respectful and understanding leader he is today.
“The way I was taught to be a leader was to do a lot of yelling, which they used to call ‘motivation,’” Walker said. “I had a great brigade command sergeant major, and I screwed up as a platoon sergeant one time. Instead of yelling at me, he pulled me aside, and we took a walk. The way he talked to me influenced my leadership style. I have only yelled three times since that occasion.”
Walker’s willingness to push himself and others, and his ability to adapt to challenging situations, allowed him to achieve the rank of command sergeant major.
Officers like Lt. Col Jefferson D. Burges, battalion commander of the 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, who served alongside Walker as a platoon leader with 1st Platoon, A Company, 27th Engineer Battalion (Airborne), has a fond appreciation of Walker’s leadership qualities and attributes.
“Hands-down, Command Sgt. Maj. Walker has made the greatest impact on my professional career,” said Burges. “I showed up to our platoon as a brand new second lieutenant, and he immediately sent me to Airborne School, followed by Pathfinder, Sapper, and Jumpmaster Schools. The battalion commander got mad at him for sending me off, but I wouldn't be an airborne battalion commander today without his investment in me as a young lieutenant.”
Having advised countless Soldiers in his career, Walker has received many lessons from his 32 years of service.
“One thing I've learned is to treat people with dignity and respect,” Walker said. “Next is how to be disciplined and organized, but the biggest thing is having that personality to know what you want and how to get it.”
With the meaningful lessons and decades of being an enlisted leader in the Army behind him, Walker is looking forward to slowing down.
“I plan to relax,” he said. “Yes, I want to work and get my master's degree, but I don’t have any plans to jump into anything right away. The first thing I want to do is read a book and learn how to golf.”