The Marine Corps’ senior enlisted leader will become the senior enlisted leader in the whole U.S. military.
Sgt. Maj. Troy Black, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, will take the role of senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Nov. 3, when Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ramón “CZ” Colón-López is set to retire from that role, according to a Pentagon news release Friday.
“This is truly humbling, and I am honored,” Black said in a statement to Marine Corps Times. “It will be a privilege to serve as the senior enlisted leader for the Department of Defense. Our focus will remain on readiness and warfighting, and I am committed to advocating for every service member and their families.”
The current chairman, Army Gen. Mark Milley, made the selection, according to the release. Milley is required by law to depart his role in early October.
Air Force Gen. CQ Brown has been nominated to replace Milley, but a monthslong hold on senior military nominations by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, could leave the joint chiefs without a confirmed chairman in place. If that occurs, Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, the vice chairman, temporarily will perform the duties of chairman, Defense News previously reported.
The chairman of the joint chiefs is the top uniformed officer in the military, who has no authority to command forces but is the principal military adviser to the White House. Black will serve as “the chairman’s direct tie to the enlisted force,” according to the release.
According to a Pentagon webpage explaining the role, “the SEAC’s exact duties may vary, though the SEAC generally devotes much time traveling throughout the Department of Defense observing education, training and communicating to the total force, (active, reserve, retirees, veterans and military families).”
Black’s current job in the Marine Corps is similar: to advocate for and communicate with enlisted Marines. As sergeant major of the Marine Corps since 2019, Black has spoken up for enlisted Marines’ quality of life and mental health in particular.
He also has played the role of motivator in chief, who is adamant that “Marines do it different.”
“Sgt. Maj. Black’s three-and-a-half decades of experience as an infantry Marine, a leader of Marines, and advisor to commanders at all levels makes him the ideal leader for this role,” Gen. David Berger, the Marine commandant, said in a statement to Marine Corps Times on Saturday. “It’s great to see he will continue to set the example for all our warfighters in the Joint Force.”
While deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as sergeant major of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, he ran several hundred yards across unswept territory to recover a Marine who had been killed by an improvised explosive device, Military.com reported. That action earned him a Bronze Star marked with a “V” for valor.
Black has served in units and roles across the Corps, including as a drill instructor at Parris Island, South Carolina, where he met his wife, now-retired 1st. Sgt. Stacie Black.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in terrorism and counterterrorism studies from the online National American University and graduated in 2011 from the military’s Joint Special Operations Forces Senior Enlisted Academy, according to his bio.
Black will be the fifth person to serve as senior enlisted adviser to the chairman, following the creation of the role in 2005, according to the Pentagon release. He will be the second Marine, after Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, who held the job from 2011 to 2015.
Sgt. Maj. Carlos Ruiz, the sergeant major of Marine Corps Forces Reserve and Marine Corps Forces South, will take over as the top enlisted Marine on Aug. 8, the Corps announced in June.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.