John Troxell is passionate about training and improving. He even followed bodybuilding, powerlifting, and even strongman competitions over the years. As a fan of strongman, he was a fan of four-time World’s Strongest Man Magnus ver Magnusson. That passion carried over into his workouts, which occasionally includes lifting and carrying a massive stone that he keeps.
“I call it the Husafell Stone,” said Troxell, paying homage to the legendary stone that resides in Magnusson’s home country of Iceland. Clearly, he doesn’t consider fitness as something to do simply for a hobby. To him, fitness is a part of who he is and what he does. That’s because Army Command Sargeant Major Troxell committed the majority of his life to staying in shape for himself, and most importantly, as a leader of many brave people that served in the United States Army.
John Troxell began his career when he joined the Army on September 1st, 1982. He recalled the date as if it was his own birthday because it had that much meaning to him. Very early on, he had already known the significance of the commitment he was making. That significance became even greater after he joined the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He received orders for his first tour of combat duty. Troxell would be a part of Operation Just Cause. As a parachutist, Troxell had to jump out of planes to places where his services were needed. This made his dangerous job even more dangerous.
“We were jumping out of the plane, landing wherever we landed, and had to get right to work,” he recalled. “I already understood the magnitude of my job before I went on that mission, but when I left for an actual tour of combat for the first time, that took it to a new level for me.
Troxell shared that he eventually decided that he needed to make his service a long-term career. He would see four more combat tours in his 37-year career, including a tour for Operation Desert Storm, two tours for Operation Iraqi Freedom and one for Operation Enduring Freedom. Throughout his tours, he found training and staying in superior shape not only helped him personally be best prepared, it also helped him as a leader. The soldiers that were under his supervision took notice of what he was doing, and they followed suit. Troxell was the personification of the phrase “lead by example.”
“They would see what I was doing that morning, and they would take on the same workouts. They wanted to keep up with me every day because they knew I was going to stay on top of my game for them. Therefore, they wanted to be their best for me as well.”
John Troxell even took that passion to train to a higher level by competing in amateur bodybuilding shows. While he enjoyed both the process and stage experience, eventually he found that the need to be his best for duty was more important than symmetry and proportions.
“I did my thing onstage and I have a few trophies. I never won a show, and I placed second twice, but training for performance and to do my job on the ground required a different type of focus and discipline.”
By the end of his career, he would eventually be named as the third Senior Enlisted Advisor (SEAC) to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He held this position from December 2015 until his retirement
in December 2019. A 37-year career in total is a large amount of time to encapsulate with simple words, but when asked how Troxell managed to not only survive but thrive in his variety of roles, he credited three letters.
“I call it PME Hard—Physically, Mentally, and Emotionally Hard,” he explained. We have to train ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally to be best-prepared for the worst possible situations. The people that were with me on those tours, and those I led, needed me to be my best, and vice versa. So, I made sure to work out as hard as I could in all facets. So, I used weights, ran with rucks, and found ways to make tasks harder so I could get better.”
Even though he no longer wears the uniform, Troxell maintains that PME mindset, and he wants to see others adopt that philosophy now and in the future. November is National Military Fitness and Wellness Month – a month that is dedicated to helping increase awareness of the importance of health and fitness for both active retired members of the Armed Forces. This is a cause that Troxell feels he can speak to, and he hopes that he can serve as an inspiration for others by sharing his story. Even though he’s been retired from service for three years now, he still does his best to lead by example.
“It’s very important for my brothers and sisters in service to continue taking care of themselves because we can be the next example for the next generation to follow.” he shared. “Our country is facing recruiting issues today, and there aren’t as many future recruits that meet the standards that we need them to.”
Many veterans don’t stay as dedicated to their fitness routines because they focus on other parts of life or simply want to move on past what they did before. They also may feel they can’t work around their injuries, so they live with them. Troxell disagrees with that belief, and he feels that it’s important for veterans to strive for improvement for another reason. As hard as they worked to protect our freedom, they should still be able to enjoy it themselves as well.
“Our commitment to ourselves doesn’t have to be as intense as it was when we were on active duty, but we still owe it to ourselves, our families, and our communities to do what we can to be here. We won’t live forever, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to live forever, or at least as long as possible so we can reap the rewards that came from what we did to protect our freedom,”