Rock Island Arsenal Sergeant Audie Murphy Club inducts first 51C
August 28, 2014
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- An Army Contracting Command-Rock Island contract specialist was inducted into the Rock Island Arsenal Sergeant Audie Murphy Club here Aug. 12.
Staff Sgt. Marie Sanders-Gulas said she was honored to have been chosen especially because she is the first 51C, contracting non-commissioned officer, to be inducted into the club's Rock Island chapter.
"To be the first for anything in the Army in 2014 is pretty mind-blowing," said Sanders-Gulas. "A lot of people don't know that a 51C staff sergeant in a contracting center is the lowest-ranking Soldier in our field. There may be other 51Cs that want to join SAMC but shy away because of the leadership component. I want other 51Cs to see this and know that standing in front of a formation barking orders is not (the only) requirement to be a leader. Informal leadership is important to any organization."
The SAMC recognizes NCOs who, according to the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Website: "…exemplify leadership characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development and welfare of Soldiers and concern for families of Soldiers."
The first SAMC club was created at Fort Hood, Texas, in 1986, honoring Sgt. Audie L. Murphy, the most decorated combat Solider of World War II.
Command Sgt. Maj. James E. Spencer, Army Sustainment Command command sergeant major, and D. Scott Welker, ASC's deputy to the commanding general, presided over the ceremony that included two other inductees. The ceremony's guest speaker, retired Sgt. Maj. Nicholas B. Castillo, spoke about the honor of membership, the responsibilities that the newest SAMC members have, as well as mentioning the importance of dedication to placing others above one's self.
"Through your servant leadership, everyone you come in contact with will immediately recognize that you are among the best, brightest and most competent non-commissioned officers the Army has to offer," said Castillo.
Inclusion in the SAMC is limited. According to the website, only two percent of NCOs Army-wide can claim membership. NCOs must be nominated by their chain of command. Once nominated, NCOs go through a series of boards testing them on a wide range of military knowledge.
Master Sgt. Sol Nevarezberrios, ACC-RI and the 920th Contingency Contracting Battalion's senior enlisted contracting advisor, said leadership positions for contracting NCOs are limited. She said it's important that NCOs display leadership through a whole-person concept by excelling in contracting, seeking graduate degrees, spearheading volunteer programs and by owning their additional duties and taking them to the next level.
By taking her equal opportunity leader and master resiliency trainer duties to another level, Nevarezberrios said Sanders-Gulas attracted the attention of senior leadership at RIA and the president of the ASC SAMC club.
"Senior leaders hold her in high regard and seek her out to participate in important events," said Nevarezberrios. "Her professionalism and drive are apparent to her peers and leaders inside and outside of ACC. She was not seeking nomination but took on their challenge, worked very hard at it and we are very proud of her accomplishments."
Sanders-Gulas, a Chicago native, said that as a Soldier who can be moved anywhere in the world, one of the first things she wants to know is how she can help out her new community. As a member of the SAMC, that question is already answered for her.
"There's a very small percentage of people within the Army that are inducted into the club," said Sanders-Gulas. "Wherever you go, if there is a Sergeant Audie Murphy Club there, you are instantly connected with group of like-minded individuals."
Sanders-Gulas joined the Illinois National Guard in 2001 at the age of 17, then two years later went on active duty. She started her active duty career as a signal Soldier specializing in information technology. She was selected for reclassification to 51C in 2012 and completed the Army Acquisition Basics Course and the Army Acquisition Foundations Course in July 2013. She joined ACC-RI in August 2013 as part of the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center Branch.
After undergoing the inherent demands that accompany a career change - while in the midst of pursing a bachelor's degree - Sanders-Gulas said she was still up for the challenge of pursuing SAMC membership.
Sanders-Gulas said the series of boards that are required of SAMC nominees were difficult. In fact, the first time she went to the SAMC boards, she was not selected. However, she was persistent and took the "raw, unfiltered feedback" from those boards and applied it to skill development.
"Boards are not my strength," she said. "I have many talents, but boards are just not one of them. I stepped up to that challenge reluctantly, but in the end it paid off. I am starting to notice the positive impact that going through the boards is having on my contracting career. I wasn't strong in boards, and I have experience to gain in contracting, so this has shown that I can confidently face new challenges and grow."
Even before her induction into the SAMC, Sanders-Gulas had dedicated much of her free time to volunteer efforts.
ACC Command Sgt. Maj. David Puig presented her with a Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for her volunteer efforts with the Thurgood Marshall Learning Center, an alternative school in Rock Island; the Boys and Girls Club; Habitat for Humanity; King's Harvest, a local homeless shelter; and the "Bridging the Gap" program, which assists local veterans.
Sanders-Gulas said she foresees her membership in the SAMC as a way to enhance not only her volunteerism, but her contracting skills as well.
"The SAMC is a huge advocate for competence," said Sanders-Gulas. "Those who are inducted are people that work hard to better themselves and the people around them, and I am I am excited to be one of the newest SAMC members."