News: Sergeant Audie Murphy Club helps develop leaders in Afghanistan
Story by Spc. Jennifer Spradlin
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – More than 66 years after then 2nd Lt. Audie Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Holtzwihr, France, during World War II, his legacy continues to influence the professional development of non-commissioned officers at Army installations across the United States, and now even in Afghanistan.
Audie Murphy is the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II. He earned 33 decorations and awards for his valorous and selfless actions during his brief active duty service. Audie Murphy began his military career as an enlisted private and quickly worked his way to the rank of staff sergeant before he was given a battle field commission to second lieutenant.
The Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, first established in 1986, was created to recognize non-commissioned officers who are dedicated to professionalism, integrity, leadership and strong moral values.
The club is a private organization whose candidates gain access through a rigorous selection process. Once accepted, members are expected to give back to other soldiers and their communities through mentorship and volunteerism.
In 2010, the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, in conjunction with Joint Sustainment Command – Afghanistan, began the first SAMC chapter at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Sgt. Maj. Ruby Murray, 7th Sustainment Brigade future operations sergeant major, is the new chapter president and has already begun to build on the prior accomplishments of the chapter.
In her opinion, the SAMC is the perfect opportunity for deployed soldiers.
“When you go into the fight, and I call it the danger zone, when you go into the danger zone, you still have to uphold the standards from garrison but at a higher level,” said Murray. “This is where the rubber meets the road. When you are at war, you really learn who your soldiers are.”
Murray first became interested in the SAMC in 1997, after belonging to the Sergeant Morales Club, a similar organization for soldiers in United States Army Europe. She was pregnant with her daughter. At that time, soldiers were required to earn one hundred percent in each of the categories of the Army physical fitness test.
It took her two years to become physically and mentally prepared for the selection process. During her first attempt, she was denied by the board for having an “improper knock,” which is a specific element of military board performances, but Murray said she was unwilling to stop coming back until she was successful.
Candidates often fail on their first attempt at membership. This experience mirrors that of Audie Murphy, who attempted to join the military numerous times but was turned away for first being too young, and then too short and underweight.
“It’s very important for non-commissioned officers to continue setting goals. We don’t like to accept failure. Failure is a no-go to us,” said Murray, a 21-year Army Veteran with previous deployments to Somalia, Kuwait, and Iraq. “[SAMC] is about building leaders. Not tearing them down, but building them up so that they can see the full spectrum of what it is to be a non-commissioned officer.”
In 2007, Murray deployed to Kuwait and became the SAMC president of their chapter. During her tenure, she tripled the SAMC membership. Less than thirty days after arriving in Afghanistan; she procured a building for potential candidates to hold study halls, sent out flyers welcoming soldiers who were interested in joining and arranged for the club to volunteer at the Role 3 hospital on KAF.
Murray doesn’t shy away from hard work. She said non-commissioned officers lead from the front and that philosophy is something she keeps close to her heart.
“We’re soldiers 24 hours a day,” said Murray, an Eastern Shore, Va., native. “If someone needs our help, we need to be ready and available.”
Over the next few months, Murray and other members of the SAMC will devote their efforts to readying candidates at KAF and Bagram Airfield for the JSC-A board in June. In addition to their unit mission and obligations, the candidates will have mandatory study halls, physical training sessions, and practice boards to prepare them for the final selection process. The process is designed to push the soldiers beyond their comfort limits.
“I think soldiers join the military for something more than the benefits. They join because there is something inside them that enjoys challenges,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Riggs, 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command command sergeant major. “It’s up to the NCO Corps to give them that inner challenge.”
Riggs said SAMC offers soldiers a positive outlet to focus their energies on during deployment. Rather than just simply trying to get through the time, they are taking advantage of it for personal development. Overall, he said, the SAMC is an important aspect of revitalizing the NCO Corps.
“I want to see the NCO Corps strive,” said Riggs, who has a combined total of more than 36 years of service. He served four years of active service in the Coast Guard. “I think with all the deployments over a ten-year war, we’ve been spinning so fast that we haven’t been able to slow down and allow NCOs to really be able to mentor their soldiers. I would like to get back to the old standards of the NCO Corps.”
Even while upholding the standards of Audie Murphy, the members do not regard him as a perfect man. It is openly acknowledged that Audie Murphy suffered from alcoholism and post traumatic stress disorder, then known as “shell shock”.
“I think SAMC builds compassionate leaders,” said Riggs, a Vicksburg, Miss., native. “We have young soldiers that mess up, and we need to mentor them and give them a second opportunity. We could waste a lot of our national assets if we don’t take on that challenge.”
Murray held her first SAMC meeting at KAF March 17. The sergeant major stressed to the new candidates the commitment needed to lead soldiers effectively into combat today. She told the candidates that there was no time for second guessing, soldiers deserved better from them.
“If you have it in your heart that you are a non-commissioned officer and not just a sergeant, and there is a difference between the two, then you will not give up,” said Murray. “Leading from the front is not about making excuses. If you really want it bad enough, and if you have the passion, then this is the place for you.”