By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 5, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 5, 2013) -- Three Soldiers joined prestigious company as they were inducted into Fort Rucker's Sergeant Audie Murphy Club during a ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Aug. 30.
Staff Sgt. Armando Frias, 597th Maintenance Detachment, 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group, Sgt. 1st Class Lonnie Gilstrap, A Co., 1st Bn. 13th Avn. Regt., and Staff Sgt. Erica Stewart, C Co., 1st Bn. 13th Avn. Regt., were inducted into the club by Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. James H. Thomson Jr., command sergeant major of the Aviation Branch.
"Our NCO corps is the envy of the world. Our noncommissioned officers are the standard bearers," said Mangum during the ceremony. "These members are the standard bearers for the standard bearers. Others want to emulate them. We expect them to be the standard, know the standard and to live the standard every day no matter the circumstances.
"Because of them we have the most exceptional NCO corps across the planet," he continued. "Thanks for serving a cause higher than self, thanks for being willing to make a difference in our world and our Army that others are unwilling or unable to step up to."
Mangum fist bumped each inductee as he awarded them each with their medals, bringing a smile to each Soldier's face.
The inductees had different reasons for striving to achieve this honor, but all agreed that it came down to leadership, responsibility and personal achievement.
"I wanted to become the best NCO I could for my Soldiers and this club emulates that," said Frias. "This group knows how to train Soldiers and it will give me the experience I need to bring my Soldiers up to be the professionals I know they can be."
"I want to be counted among the best NCOs in the world," said Gilstrap. "It will give me a place to improve the community, and it is a place I can go to for additional experience and guidance."
The Soldiers had to endure a series of boards and evaluations to be inducted into the club. It was one of the most challenging things that they have accomplished with balancing studying, Family life and everyday duty.
"I want to be an example for my peers and my Soldiers of what an NCO can be and accomplish when they put their mind to it," said Gilstrap. "We are all expected to do more, so we will rise to the occasion together."
Being in this esteemed club can do a lot for a Soldier's reputation, but these three said it wasn't about advancing their own careers, but having the skills necessary to help other Soldiers and their Families.
"I want to be able to teach and train other Soldiers how to lead each other, while at the same time showing them how to give back to the community and their Families," said Stewart. "It will give me the knowledge to take care of Soldiers and to take care of the Army."
Murphy was a war hero, an actor, songwriter, poet and the most decorated Soldier in World War II, earning 33 awards and medals, including the Medal of Honor.
The Sergeant Audie Murphy Club originally started in 1986 and the Fort Rucker club has been active on the installation with leader development and taking care of Soldiers and Families. Club members participate in numerous community and Family support activities like Toys for Tots, the Angel Tree Program and the Army Emergency Relief fund. The club also has the added responsibility of running the USAACE-level ceremonies on the installation, according to Thomson, and provides the narrators, award bearers and personnel needed for the ceremonies.
"It's important that we understand that this isn't about getting the blue sash and medallion," said Thomson. "It's about joining an organization that epitomizes our profession and gives back to our communities."