Audie Murphy board convenes
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Davis, right, trombonist for the Army Material Command Band, adjusts bandmate Sgt. 1st Class Steven Spohn's tie as they prepare for the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club board. Spohn, also a trombonist, was the first NCO to appear before an Aberdeen Proving Ground SAMC board since 2006."

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- The first Sgt. Audie Murphy Club board to convene here since 2006 met today at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command headquarters with four noncommissioned officers seeking membership in the elite Soldier fraternity.

The club is named for Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Audie Leon Murphy, a legendary combat Soldier who distinguished himself while assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division during World War II. After the war, Murphy went to Hollywood and starred in 44 motion pictures, including To Hell and Back, the screen adaptation of his 1949 autobiography.

In the 1960s, Murphy spoke candidly about his personal problems with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, called battle fatigue at that time. He publically called for the U.S. government to give more consideration and study to the emotional impact war has on veterans and to extend health care benefits to address PTSD and other mental health problems of returning war vets.

Murphy was killed in a plane crash near Roanoke, Va., on May 28, 1971. He was 46 years old.

Sgt. 1st Class Steven Spohn, a trombonist with the Army Material Command band and 15-year Army veteran, said the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club embodies the essence of the NCO leader.

"I first learned about the club at Scholfield Barracks, Hawaii, when we played for an Audie Murphy Club induction ceremony. At the time I thought it was just for infantry guys. About two years later I learned more about it and it's been a goal of mine since.

"It's an elite club for NCOs to be in," Spohn said. "It's one of the few clubs that represents the NCO leader."

Spohn, from Wheeling, W. Va., is partially responsible for the revival of the SAMC within AMC.

"I asked my enlisted band leader Sgt. Maj. Wendy Thompson about it. A few years ago I saw there was an AMC regulation and found on the Internet that they had conducted an Audie Murphy board, the last in 2006. So I asked if it was active or inactive and found it was inactive at the time. This was about two years ago.

"So Command Sgt. Maj. Hector Marin (RDECOM senior enlisted advisor) and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger (AMC senior enlisted advisor) have been working to put this together for Soldiers," Spohn said. "This is the first one in a few years."

Also appearing before the board was Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Davis, also a trombonist with the AMC Band. The AMC Band falls under RDECOM for administrative actions.

"I've always wanted to be part of something bigger than me, and to have this leadership opportunity is a good thing," Davis said. "The club strives for excellence, and I feel I do the same thing, every day doing the best I can. So this is an opportunity to be part of that."

Davis, from Palm Bay, Fla., talked about leadership roles within an Army band.

"We can be ceremonial conductors, drum majors, things along those lines. The band does go to war, as well. The capability that we have at war is a musical capability for Soldier morale."

He noted that the 82nd Airborne Division Band is now in Afghanistan and the 101st Airborne Division Band is getting ready to take their place. The 25th Infantry Division Band and the 1st Armored Division Bands are currently deployed to Iraq.

Spohn and Davis said they showed interest in SAMC at about the same time, wondering how they might become members. Spohn said the club had "gotten lost in the wind" the last few years, but that Mellinger and Marin combined to put the program back on track.

"Sgt. Maj. Thompson from the AMC Band has been pushing hard to re-establish the Audie Murphy Club," Marin said, noting that Spohn and Davis were part of the push.

"When I got to APG, we had a charter in place that was established by my predecessor. Right now that charter is on hold, mainly because of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure).

"I knew that a transformation was going to take place and when the Soldiers from the Ordnance Center and School left, there would be a void in SAMC members. And a lot of SAMC members had either moved on or retired.

"I will try to restart the chapter here at APG shortly," Marin said, adding that Command Sgt. Maj. Mellinger gives the effort his full support.

"Being the leader he is and knowing the meaning behind the Audie Murphy Club for an organization the size of AMC, we are going to move forward," he said, adding that the SAMC board would meet annually to select new members.

SAMC members serve as role models at installations where they serve.

"They give back to the community," Marin said. "These are Soldiers who are concerned about training, about the performance of their Soldiers, their units and organizations, and Family members.

"They get involved in the community, whether helping out at the VFW, doing installation fund raisers, helping out at an orphanage or going to area schools to speak with students and mentor as individuals.

"They really give back," Marin emphasized.

Also appearing before the SAMC board were Staff Sgt. Ryan Siddal and Sgt. Glen Brunson from the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Natick, Mass.

Siddal, from Augusta, Ga., said his motivation came from a deep personal respect for Audie Murphy.

"I really like Audie Murphy," Siddal said. "My dad was in Vietnam and a great Soldier. He grew up when Audie Murphy's movies were big and knew all about him.

"I want to show my father that while he may not have been able to do it in his career; I've done it in mine. I want him to be proud of me," he said.

Siddal serves as platoon leader for a detachment of research volunteers -- recent advance individual training graduates who volunteer to be part of a testing program -- who pass through NSRDEC, about 20 to 35 volunteers each month.

"It's challenging because the Soldiers are part of a study. It's hard to conduct regular physical training because of the profiles these studies demand. There are some studies where, if their core temperature goes off due to PT, then the whole study is useless," Siddal explained.

"We're always concerned with them being good Soldiers," he added.

Brunson, from Atlanta, is an Army mental health specialist. He serves as his unit's training room NCO and also as squad leader for the research volunteers.

"I don't have many Soldiers to lead," Brunson said, "but I schedule training and work to make sure our Soldiers stay proficient in their warrior tasks.

"I've known about SAMC since my first assignment at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.," he said. "I always heard great things about it, that a lot of community service goes out and that it's an excellent source for leaders. That's what draws me to this, having access to some of the best leaders in the Army.

"I've been studying the Audie Murphy bio, the club crest, the NCO Creed, the Soldier's Creed, a lot of situational-type questions and a lot of background general knowledge questions about the military.

"I know Audie Murphy was a legend in his own time," Brunson said. "He made 44 movies and starred in 39 of them."

Knowing details about Audie Murphy and the SAMC are evaluated by the board. Others areas include examples of leadership, basic military skills and caring for Soldiers.

"Even knowing when to ask for help can be critical," said Sgt. Maj. Thompson, from the AMC Band.

The SAMC originated in 1986 at Fort Hood, Texas. The effort to establish the club was led by III Corps commander Gen. Crosbie Saint and Command Sgt. Maj. George Horvath III. In 1991, III Corps commander Lt. Gen. Pete Taylor and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Clayton expanded the club to all of III Corps. The SAMC eventually spread Army-wide in 1994.

After World War II, Murphy's image appeared on the cover of Life magazine and he was invited to Hollywood by actor James Cagney. After struggling as an actor for a several years, Murphy landed his first starring role in the 1949 movie Bad Boy. He then signed a contract with Universal-International and starred in 26 films, 23 of which were westerns, over the next 15 years.

His 1949 autobiography, To Hell and Back, was a best seller and was made into a movie starring Murphy in 1955. It stood as Universal's highest grossing movie until 1975 when it was surpassed by the movie Jaws.

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Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16