The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, named Black as the next Senior Enlisted Adviser to the Chairman (SEAC), the most senior enlisted rank in the military and a position that serves as the chairman's "direct tie to the enlisted force," a statement said Friday.
Black, a 35-year Marine veteran, will relieve the current SEAC, Ramón "CZ" Colón-López, on Nov. 3, when the latter retires from the Air Force.
In a statement emailed to Military.com on Saturday, Black said that the promotion is "a privilege." "This is truly humbling, and I am honored," he added.
The Army's top enlisted soldier, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, tweeted out his congratulations to Black on Saturday. "I know the Joint Force is in great hands," Grinston wrote.
Black joined the Marine Corps in 1988 as a machine gunner, and his battlefield accomplishments drew attention early in his time as the Corps' top enlisted Marine. However, his tenure as the senior enlisted adviser to Marine Corps leadership would be defined by his efforts to improve the quality of life for average Marines.
Black frequently spoke to the press and Congress about policy changes or improvements that were being made with an eye toward making service in the Corps less taxing on families. He would often reference his wife, a retired first sergeant, as a source of inside knowledge on the challenges that come with a military lifestyle.
Black will become only the fifth person to hold the rank of SEAC since the position was created in 2005. Since then, the service members who held the job have been relatively unknown compared to their service-level counterparts who have taken on leading roles in shaping service-level policy and speaking to issues including defending troops or helping raise awareness and funds with silly online hijinks while drawing media attention.
From 2008 to 2011, while Adm. Mike Mullen was chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the post went unfilled. A distinct rank insignia wasn't developed until 2019. Since the post has been held only by soldiers, airmen and Marines, the Navy's rank for a sailor who would fill the position has not even received final approval.
Colón-López drew some media attention early in his tenure when he urged service members to speak up about unsafe actions or policies during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those comments came just hours before Reuters reported that the Navy had relieved Capt. Brett Crozier of his command as the captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, after a letter leaked in which he raised concerns about the health of his sailors.
Colón-López also tried to help address the military's mental health and suicide problem by releasing a several minute-long video in which he and his wife discuss his struggle with mental health issues that followed his combat deployments, though later remarks he made on the topic drew criticism.
He also was in the news in March when he gave a powerful rebuke of a push toward more progressive military shaving policies.
"If you want to look cute with your skinny jeans and your beard, by all means do it someplace else but quit wasting our time on something that doesn't have anything to do with kicking the enemy's ass," he said on a Facebook livestream alongside the top enlisted advisers for the Air Force and Space Force.
Black says that he will use his time in the job to focus on "readiness and warfighting."
"I am committed to advocating for every service member and their families," Black added.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.