At his last job on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell liked to get out in the field and see how hard he could push soldiers who were 20 years younger than him.
He challenged them to sprint with parachutes, slug a tire with a heavy hammer and lift telephone poles.
Finding time for that kind of training may be more difficult at his next assignment.
The Pentagon on Wednesday announced that Troxell is next in line to become the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.
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That will make Troxell the Defense Department’s highest-ranking enlisted military service member.
Troxell “is someone soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors can look up to. He can inspire people, and he is someone I trust to tell me things straight,” Dunford said in announcing Troxell’s appointment.
For the past two years, Troxell has served as the senior enlisted adviser at U.S. Forces Korea, where he works closely with another recent JBLM leader, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.
Troxell’s next assignment will require him to meet with troops around the world to advise Dunford and Defense Secretary Ash Carter on the well-being of the force. He’s following Marine Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia into the office.
Troxell first arrived at JBLM in 2005 to form a new Army Stryker unit that became the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. He deployed with it to Iraq in 2007 during the war’s “surge.” It was a difficult year when the brigade and units attached to it lost 54 soldiers.
He returned to JBLM in 2010, when he was named the I Corps command sergeant major.
Troxell deployed with Scaparrotti to Afghanistan in 2011, when I Corps served as the war’s daily operational headquarters. On that deployment, Troxell would visit NATO forces around the country to get a sense of how soldiers were interacting with their Afghan counterparts and to make recommendations to Scaparrotti.
Back at JBLM after the deployment, Troxell was a visible presence on a campaign meant to enforce standards of conduct in the barracks, which had lagged during repeated deployments of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
He also prodded soldiers to rethink their physical training programs. He urged them to get creative in practicing movements they might actually use in battle, such as lifting heavy and awkward objects.
That program peaked with his multiple-day exercises for senior enlisted leaders in which he put high-ranking soldiers under stress by pushing them through combat drills while depriving them of food and sleep.
“It conditions the mind and spirit to say, ‘I’m out of my comfort zone, and that’s OK,’ ” he told The News Tribune at a 2011 exercise for lieutenants.