In every talk that Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell has with service members — officer and enlisted — he emphasizes that core responsibility. If NCOs are not doing that job, he says, then the units "will be sending people home in body bags."
The SEAC, as he is called, spoke about the crucial mission of NCOs and petty officers in shaping service members who serve with them.
"In the profession, we're in, regardless of whether it's in direct combat, whether it's during a deployment, or whatever it may be, bad things can happen," he said. "And in our profession, when bad things happen they can be brutal and unforgiving, and people can die."
It is not enough, in the sergeant major's opinion, just to meet a standard — soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen must exceed it to ensure they are doing what they need to do to prepare for their worst days, Troxell said.
"That has to be done and can be done on a daily basis," he said. "How we physically prepare our men and women for this brutal and unforgiving environment, how we prepare them mentally and emotionally and technically and tactically, so that they can perform at the best of their abilities, on the worst day of their life," he explained, is the job of all NCOs.
This covers the range of the services and does not have to be limited to combat roles, he noted. A fire on a ship, a malfunctioning rocket on an aircraft or an accident on the firing line are among the kinds of situations for which service members must have the expertise and physical capabilities needed to react appropriately and act quickly. This is why good, tough, realistic training is needed, and it's the job of all NCOs to ensure the standards are understood and exceeded, Troxell said.
If they are not doing that, he added, "then we are doing an injustice to these men and women in terms of preparing them to handle and have the resilience they'll need to get after that."
The 55-year-old sergeant major walks the walk, too. His physical training regimens are legendary, and he routinely smokes much younger personnel working out with him.
Preparing for the worst day inherently means helping people through the range of possible problems, whether it is a car accident or even "no pay due" in a service member's paycheck. If noncommissioned officers and petty officers aren't engaged in providing caring leadership and enforcing high standards of performance — physically, mentally, emotionally, technically and tactically – they are doing a disservice to their troops, he said.