Next Marine Sergeant Major Ran Across IED-Filled Ground to Reach Fallen Comrade

U.S. Marine Sgt. Maj Troy E. Black addresses Marines, Sailors and guests during the 1st MLG Relief and Appointment Ceremony aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 7, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Zabolotniy, Camp Pendleton)
U.S. Marine Sgt. Maj Troy E. Black addresses Marines, Sailors and guests during the 1st MLG Relief and Appointment Ceremony aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 7, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Zabolotniy, Camp Pendleton)

Sgt. Maj. Troy Black wasn't going to leave one of his Marines behind.

When he deployed as sergeant major of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in 2010, Black went out on more than 50 missions, covering 10,000 miles of terrain filled with improvised explosive devices. When one of those IEDs detonated, killing a Marine, Black ran several hundred yards through unswept territory to reach him.

His actions earned him a Bronze Star with Combat "V" Device. Now, he will become the 19th sergeant major of the Marine Corps.

"[Black's] boldness under fire continually imbued his Marines with confidence and a steady resolve," his Bronze Star citation states. "He consistently demonstrated a sincere dedication to his Marines and Sailors, and inspired them to overcome incredible challenges to accomplish their mission."

That set the example for more than 1,100 troops during that deployment from April to September 2010. The Marines, sailors and soldiers he helped lead were spread across three provinces and partnered with two Afghan battalions.

"Sergeant Major Black distinguished himself through his exceptional leadership, operational input, and devotion to duty," according to the citation. "Both on the battlefield under fire and on the firm bases, he courageously set the example."

Black routinely braved enemy fire to provide frontline guidance and encouragement, according to the award. He "fearlessly led the battalion ... through several significant engagements with the enemy."

"By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative, and total dedication to duty, Sergeant Major Black reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service," the citation states.

When Black left the 3/7 in 2011, he credited his Marines with making the battalion successful during his time there.

"[It was the] leadership in the Marines, great officers, great staff [noncommissioned] officers, and the leadership dedication in the NCOs and below," he said.

Black will replace Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green later this year.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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