by Staff Sgt. Joshua Brandenburg2nd ID
AFGHANISTAN - The people and places the military introduces service members to, can at times seem quite small. For every deployment to a remote Forward Operating Base, there are multiple occasions when soldiers run into an old friend or colleague. Command Sgts. Maj. Samuel G. Murphy and John Wayne Troxell are no different; their career paths began to crisscross at Fort Bragg, N.C., years before their recent meeting in southern Afghanistan. This meeting allowed the two senior non-commissioned officers the chance to look back on their friendship.
“When I was a sergeant I re-enlisted to go to the 82nd Airborne Division, and when I got there I was assigned to the 3rd Battalion Airborne 73rd Armor,” said Murphy, Command sergeant major of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. “The free world’s only airborne armor battalion.”
Murphy arrived at 3-73 Armor and was assigned to the mortar platoon in Alpha Company, where Troxell was the first sergeant.
“The boys would be half in the bag, playing hockey and things like that,” said Troxell, Command sergeant major of 1st Corps, Joint Base Lewis McChord. “I would have to put the thump on him and the other NCOs [Non-Commissioned Officers].”
This was more than 15 years ago, before either realized that their careers would mirror one another and a mentorship would evolve. Neither of them thought –at that time- that one would be a command sergeant major for a corps and the other a command sergeant major for a subordinate brigade, but Troxell saw plenty of potential in his young sergeant.
“After he knew who I was, he made it a point to call me into his office on a daily basis,” said Murphy. “For some reason he saw potential in me back then, that I didn’t even see myself. He tried to push me to go above and beyond.”
“Murphy was a young, energetic sergeant that was full of energy,” added Troxell. “He was very impressive to me as a young NCO. He was one of the best NCOs in his platoon.”
Mentorships in the Army happen all the time and are not always welcomed in the beginning. However, they bring out the best in the individual being mentored and looking back they are thankful for the experience.
“The way he interacted with me at that time was exactly what I needed”, added Murphy.
When they departed the 82nd Airborne Division, they went their separate ways and would never serve directly with each other again, but were always close by. Murphy’s career always seemed to follow Troxell’s in some way.
“Our deployments have kind of been off cycle,” said Troxell.
Troxell deployed with 3-2 SBCT to Iraq in 2003-04, with Murphy’s unit (the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team) replacing Troxell’s. The next deployment for Troxell was as the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division Command Sergeant Major. He left just as Murphy became the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment Command Sergeant Major in the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.
“We’ve never deployed together but we’ve seen each other throughout the 15 years that I have known him,” said Troxell.
According to Murphy, Troxell is hard but fair with unyielding standards of discipline, which Murphy has adopted. While Murphy would not say he molded himself after Troxell he has definitely picked up many of the same traits. He has no problem talking to soldiers, and if they are out of line, he will put them back in line.
“After 10 years of combat, we as an Army have become a little bit too over compassionate and a little bit too undisciplined,” said Troxell. “Sam Murphy is the kind of command sergeant major that puts that back into balance, that good balance of discipline and compassion.”
Both believe that the other is exactly the type of command sergeant major the Army needs.
“He genuinely cares about every one of them [his soldiers], that’s why he’s so hard on wearing your uniform right, wearing your personal protective equipment right,” added Troxell. “He’s exactly the kind of guy we need, because it’s those fundamentals, those basic disciplines that keep soldiers alive on the battlefield.”
The welfare of soldiers is one of the basic responsibilities of a Non-Commissioned Officer and both, Troxell and Murphy, believe that a good NCO will enforce the standards.
“I think he’s exactly what we need for a corps sergeant major,” said Murphy. “Someone who will continue to push the Corps in the right direction.”
“If a command sergeant major is passionate about making soldiers do the right thing, and it comes with a butt chewing, that is motivation and an act of love,” said Troxell. “If the command sergeant major didn’t love that soldier like he loved his own children, he would let the soldier walk around with whatever standard that soldier wants. It could come back to haunt that soldier outside the wire if they’re not doing what they are supposed to be doing.”
Troxell wanted the soldiers of the Arrowhead Brigade to know and understand that they have a command sergeant major that genuinely loves and cares for every one of them and that’s why he’s going to stay in their backsides.