NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Oct. 25, 2013) -- For almost 30 years, the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club has recognized the best noncommisioned officers in the U.S. Army for meritorious service and excellence in leadership. Membership in the club in now one of the most honored achievements an NCO can be awarded.

"This has been one of my goals for a long time," said Sgt. 1st Class Eston Simmons, a Lake City, Fla. native and master gunner with 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment. "Along with finishing college, being a good father to my children, a good husband to my wife; becoming a member of the Audie Murphy Club is something I've always wanted ever since I heard about [it]."

The club was founded in 1986 at Fort Hood, Texas in honor of its namesake, Staff Sergeant Audie Murphy, the most decorated Soldier of World War II.

Recently, seven NCOs from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force patriot, put their mettle to the test at a brigade-level selection board at Forward Operating Base Fenty. The 4th Brigade's senior enlisted leader, along with the five senior enlisted advisors for Brigade's deployed battalions, presided over the selection process.

The ultimate goal for the NCOs that day was to prove themselves worthy of the opportunity to represent their unit at the Combined Joint Task Force-101 Audie Murphy selection board at Bagram Air Field.

"I'm just happy for the opportunity to compete with all the other Soldiers for this and hopefully I'll get the chance to make the Soldiers and NCOs of the 4th BCT proud," said Sgt. Adriana Fox, brigade chaplain assistant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, from Davis, Calif.

Candidates must pass a PT test and prepare a few things beforehand to present the day of the board. Once an NCO is selected to compete for membership into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, their biggest challenge is the board.

"It's pretty intimidating. You're sitting there with all the sergeants major and when we start to bring into question your leadership and your knowledge, yeah, it gets intimidating," said Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Singerhouse, 4th BCT Audie Murphy board member.

Soldiers are challenged to master the many details of the life of Audie Murphy, from his childhood, to his storied military career, and his contributions to Hollywood as an actor, author, songwriter, and poet.

The NCOs are also bombarded with a salvo of extreme situations and must decide what actions they would take as a leader in those situations to uphold the honor and integrity of the U.S. Army.

"There's a lot of reasons we go hard at those guys," said Singerhouse. "Sergeant Audie Murphy Club NCOs are supposed to be the premiere NCOs we have and when we ask those situational questions, their knowledge and their leadership ability comes out. It becomes obvious when you ask those questions."

Out of the seven who submitted themselves for consideration for the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, at the end of the day, the selection committee chose three to represent the brigade at Bagram and vie for inductions into the club.

"I feel amazed, relieved, confident," said Simmons, "There's nothing to hold me back."

Along with Sgt. 1st Class Simmons, Sgt. 1st Class Justin Pizzoferrato from 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment also made the cut, and rounding out the roster is Sgt. Fox, the first female Soldier 4th Brigade has sent in years to contend for membership in the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club.

"It's already an honor to be competing at that level," said Fox. "It's an honor to even be considered and if I get chosen, I will be extremely excited."