SPRINGFIELD, Virginia – A Cherokee Nation citizen who joined the U.S. Navy in 1984 is now a vice admiral in high-ranking posts as both director of Naval Intelligence and deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare.
“I joined thinking I was only going to be a power plant operator,” said Jeffery E. Trussler, 58, of Springfield, Va. “I had no idea I was going to learn to drive a submarine, shoot torpedoes and missiles and go to and operate in places that most people have never heard of.”
Trussler’s youth was spent in Miami, Oklahoma, where he attended high school and Northeastern A&M Junior College. He was recruited into the Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program while attending Oklahoma State University near the end of his junior year in 1984.
“The Navy recruits STEM students to finish their degree program, get commissioned at the Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, and then go through a year of nuclear power plant training,” he said.
In addition to Trussler’s current roles, career highlights include commanding the Undersea Warfighting Development Center, directing future plans of the U.S. Navy, two tours at the Navy Personnel Command, the Joint Staff and the Navy Staff.
Trussler received the Naval Submarine League’s Rear Adm. Jack Darby Award for Inspirational Leadership and Excellence in Command for 2006. Rather than reflect on his own military awards or decorations, Trussler expressed pride for his crew when in command of the ballistic missile submarine USS Maryland from 2003-06.
“We received the highest marks on all competitive areas we were evaluated in, and eight of my officers went on to their own command assignments,” he said.
Trussler assumed duties as the Navy’s 68th director of Naval Intelligence in June 2020.
“In that role, I work in partnership with the other 17 elements of the National Intelligence Community – Office of the Director of National Intelligence, CIA, NGA, etc. – to ensure our Navy can leverage all the intelligence assets available to maintain advantage over any potential adversaries in the maritime domain,” he said.
As the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, Trussler serves as principal advisor for the Chief of Naval Operations on matters ranging from cyber security to precision navigation.
“On behalf of Navy leadership here in the Pentagon, I work very closely with our fleet to ensure they have the information warfare resources, equipment, trained manpower, etc., available to our commanders so they can deter any potential aggression or fight and win any battle,” he said.
The vice admiral says he will likely retire next year.
“I think my current assignment and time in the Navy will be complete in 2023 after 39 years,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed every moment of my experience in the Navy and am looking forward to the next opportunities.”
Trussler traces his Cherokee lineage to the Trail of Tears and Juda “Tsu-Ta Ki-kum-mah” Cochran, born in 1818 in the Cherokee territory of Georgia.
“During the removal to Oklahoma, she took up with a Scottish trader named Ambrose McGhee who accompanied the Cherokees on the trail,” he said. “They had eight children together in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. Several of their sons fought with Brig. Gen. Stand Watie in the Civil War. One daughter, Eliza Jane “Nu Cha” McGhee had a daughter, Sarah Fields. Sarah had a daughter, Elizabeth Brown, that was my great grandmother. Elizabeth was born in 1888 and lived to 100 before she passed away in 1988 after outliving four husbands.”
Trussler and his wife, Kirsten, will celebrate 30 years of marriage later this year.