Sergeant Audie Murphy Club inducts new members
GEN Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, speaks to crowds at Ridgway Hall June 18 after presenting 6 NCOs with Sergeant Audie Murphy Club membership medallions. From left: SFC Curtis Reid (B 1/15 IN) SFC Erick Figueroa (D 2/54 IN) SFC Patrick Nelson (HHD NCOA) SSG Kimble Patterson (HHD NCOA) SSG Jackson Perry (B 2/19 IN) Not pictured: SSG John Laughter (D 3/47 IN)

FORT BENNING - Fort Benning honored some of its finest when six NCOs were inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club during a ceremony at Ridgway Hall June 18.

GEN Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, who was visiting Fort Benning, presented the membership medallions.

"NCOs are what make our Army different from every other army in the world," Chiarelli said. "They are the heart and soul of the Unites States Army. And when you get to see the ones I've seen here today training young recruits and making them Soldiers, it's a wonderful thing. It is truly an honor to be able to present these great NCOs with something they have justly deserved."

The club, which inducts new members each quarter, recognizes NCOs in the ranks of corporal, sergeant, staff sergeant and sergeant first class who show exceptional leadership. Audie Murphy, the club's namesake and Medal of Honor recipient, was the most decorated combat Soldier of World War II.

To be eligible for membership, Soldiers must score 90 or above in each event of the Army physical fitness test, and have letters of recommendation from their first sergeant, battalion sergeant major and brigade sergeant major. Once candidates are recommended by their chain of command, they appear before a board of sergeants major who evaluate their knowledge of Soldier skills and issues. If the board votes unanimously in favor of the candidate, he or she is inducted.

On average, only half of the NCOs who apply for membership each quarter are inducted, said SFC Namu Keys, 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, president of the Fort Benning chapter of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.

"They have to be high-caliber," he said.

Club members must be able to deal with any and all issues that may come up with one of their Soldiers, Keys said.

"As a leader, they should know the answer, or know where to go to find the answer," he said.

One of the club's main activities is community service, Keys said. Club members pick up trash along Fort Benning's roads, conduct food drives for Damascus Way, a shelter for women and children, and collect toys for Santa's Castle, which provides Christmas gifts to military children.

Giving to the community outside of the Army is a greater part of what Soldiers should do, and a way for NCOs to set an example by following in the footsteps of Audie Murphy, who was involved in community service, Keys said.

SFC Erick Figueroa, a drill sergeant with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment, said he wanted to apply for the club since 2006, but was unable because of deployments to Iraq. Figueroa, who has served nearly 12 years in the Army, said while he enjoys all aspects of his job, the best part is shaping young Soldiers.

"When the Soldiers go out (to their units), I like it when I get calls back saying 'Did you train this guy' Thanks,'" he said. "I want the Soldiers to go out there and be able to say 'My drill sergeant was Figueroa and he set the standard.'"

Figueroa said he and all the drill sergeants in his company push themselves and their Soldiers to achieve to the best of their abilities.

"On the PT test, I tell them that 80 push-ups, 80 sit-ups and 13 minutes on the run is the standard - but that's really the maximum," he said. "They might not achieve the maximum, but if you push for perfection, you're going to go above the standard."

Keys said Chiarelli's presence made the induction especially memorable.

"It made an impression on not just the NCOs who were inducted, but also their Soldiers and other leaders who were there," he said. "(The leadership) had the foresight to put these Soldiers out there as the best Fort Benning has to offer.

"When I do events like this one, and the young Soldiers see I'm being introduced to the vice chief of staff as the leader of the club here, I want them to see that they, too, can have their career go in this direction."

Page last updated Fri June 26th, 2009 at 12:33