FORT BLISS, Texas – Powder blue ribbons with distinctive silver medallions rested proudly on the necks of the newest Sergeant Audie Murphy Club members as they stood upon the stage, Dec. 10, at the United States Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, Texas.
The trials leading up to this moment were long and arduous, some taking a career to prepare for, but the 11 noncommissioned officers finally belonged to one of the most prestigious enlisted organizations in the Army.
“It feels amazing to finally get inducted into the club,” said Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Keller, one of the SAMC inductees from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
To become a member, each candidate had to appear before three separate boards consisting of the post’s most senior enlisted leaders and was required to answer challenging situational questions to test their ability as an NCO. While this may seem simple at first, the candidates could be asked virtually anything and they would have to respond dead in the eye of the division command sergeant major, Ronnie Kelley, a man with more than 27 years of experience in the military.
“It’s tough to explain to someone you respect so much why you feel you make a good leader,” said Keller, trying to explain his board experience in layman’s terms. “It can be intimidating. It would be like sitting in front of a board of senators or even the president and trying to prove yourself to them.”
As difficult as it was, it was all worth it come the day of induction, he added. The stoic faces of the command sergeants major that questioned him and the other inductees just months before were now turned to smiles as they welcomed the NCOs into the elite club.
While the induction signified the end of their trials, it also marked the beginning of a larger commitment for the new members. Kelley, also a SAMC member, outlined those expectations as he spoke that day.
“You are joining an elite team of noncommissioned officers – individuals who want to be part of something bigger than themselves,” he said. “This commitment will require you to sacrifice your time for others, but it will be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. You have your leadership and my attention; use that to make a difference in your unit, Fort Bliss and El Paso.”
These 11 NCOs now join the ranks of other SAMC members who have volunteered more than 200 hours in just the last two months for veteran’s homes, homeless shelters and other community organizations. With shining medallions around their neck, their transformation is now complete. And so, as one journey ends, another begins.
The SAMC inductees were: Sgt. 1st Class Tenneil Erickson, 3rd Brigade Combat Team; Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Keller, 3rd BCT; Sgt. 1st Class Alan West, 3rd BCT; Sgt. 1st Class Aubrey Wright, 3rd BCT; Staff Sgt. Bridgette Bankhead, 3rd BCT; Staff Sgt. Cynthia Martinez, 212th Fires Brigade; Staff Sgt. Phillip Sellers, 4th BCT; Staff Sgt. Philemon White, 4th BCT; Sgt. Edward Garibay, 15th Sustainment Bde.; Sgt. James Keown 3rd BCT; and Sgt. Ayla Pickering, 3rd BCT.
For more information about SAMC visit www.Facebook.com/BlissSAMC.