The official photo of the 19th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black.

The official photo of the 19th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black. (Kelly Byers/U.S. Marine Corps)

Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Troy Black, the top enlisted Marine, will become the Pentagon’s highest ranking enlisted service member, the Defense Department announced Friday.

Black, a 35-year Marine who has served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, will become the fifth senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or SEAC, according to the Pentagon. Black was selected by Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, for the position, which provides advice and insights on the enlisted force to the top U.S. general and the Pentagon’s top civilian leaders.

Black will replace SEAC Ramon "CZ" Colon-Lopez, who is slated to retire Nov. 3 after 33 years in the Air Force. Colon-Lopez has held the SEAC job since December 2019.

Black has served as the sergeant major of the Marine Corps since 2019, during a stretch of time that saw great change in that service. During Black’s time as the top Marine, the service eliminated the Corps’ tank units and pivoted the service toward preparing for expeditionary fights after it spent some two decades conducting land wars.

Originally an infantry machine gunner, Black has served at every enlisted level in the Marine Corps, according to his official biography. He deployed in 1989 aboard the USS Forrestal supercarrier in support of Operation Just Cause in Panama. One year later, Black deployed to Kuwait with the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

He served two tours at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., as a drill instructor and senior drill instructor before multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his biography. He deployed twice to Iraq between 2003 and 2006 with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. Black then served two deployments to Afghanistan between 2009 and 2011 as the sergeant major for the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines.

Black was awarded a Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for valor in 2010 for actions in Afghanistan. He was credited with running several hundred yards through an uncleared area to rescue the remains of a fallen Marine who had been killed by an improvised explosive device. The Bronze Star citation credited him with routinely braving enemy fire during that deployment to lead his Marines from the front on some 50 missions.

Black’s “boldness under fire continually imbued his Marines with confidence and a steady resolve," his award citation reads. "He consistently demonstrated a sincere dedication to his Marines and sailors and inspired them to overcome incredible challenges to accomplish their mission.”

The Bronze Star is not Black’s only valor award. He has also received a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” device for combat valor, according to the Marine Corps.

Black will become the second Marine to serve as the SEAC. Retire Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia held that job from 2011 to 2015. Two Army sergeant majors have served as SEAC. No service members from the Navy or Space Force have held the job. Colon-Lopez is the only airman to have held the post.

When he takes the top enlisted job at the Pentagon, Black will likely work alongside Air Force Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, who was nominated by President Joe Biden in May to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley is expected to retire by October.

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.

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