ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Enlisted Soldiers have to be recommended for exemplifying the Army values before they can even test for membership in the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. In September, Rock Island Arsenal's SAMC inducted their newest member.
Sgt. Edwin Garcia is a food inspection sergeant with Public Health Command District-Fort Knox, Kentucky, and he is the only Soldier assigned to his section at RIA. Far from his flagpole, Garcia said he worked hard to find mentors and a place on the island.
"There's only one of me in my unit," he said. "Since I've been here, I've participated with Army Sustainment Command, and they've welcomed me almost like their adopted Soldier. Since I have been here, they've been taking care of me."
Garcia, who joined the Army in 2010, has spent little time on Army installations. Only the Army has Garcia's Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), a food inspector specialist. Other services also need people with Garcia's MOS, so he spent most of his military career serving with eight other Soldiers at Camp Pendleton, a Marine base in California.
When Garcia came to RIA in September 2014, it was his first time serving on an Army post. ASC Soldiers provided mentorship and helped Garcia connect with SAMC's local chapter.
Garcia began attending chapter meetings and frequently volunteered for events, so much so that members commented on his dedication.
The senior advisor for RIA's SAMC, Sgt. Maj. Brian Marone, sergeant major, Distribution Management Center, said Garcia is a good fit for SAMC.
"Sgt. Garcia possesses the four pillars that make up the philosophy of the SAMC: loyalty, discipline, professionalism and caring," said Marone. "He believes in the motto, 'You lead from the front.' "
Audie Murphy served in World War II and was the most decorated Soldier in history, earning every medal available for valor, including the Medal of Honor. He earned a battlefield commission to second lieutenant and was eventually promoted to the rank of major in the Texas National Guard. Murphy fought in nine campaigns throughout the European Theater, according to his biography on the Audie L. Murphy Memorial website.
The SAMC was founded to continue Murphy's legacy, and members are given a silver medallion on a blue ribbon to wear over their uniforms.
Garcia said that he particularly likes Murphy's lifelong commitment to selfless service.
"Audie Murphy's most cherished value was selfless service because it was all about others instead of himself," said Garcia, continuing that he respects Murphy's commitment to his family.
During his basic combat training in 2010, Garcia said he looked up to his first sergeant, Eduardo Iturregui, who was a SAMC member. Iturregui is now the command sergeant major of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery Regiment in the 428th Field Artillery Brigade, Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
"One day, I saw the first sergeant going to a ceremony and he had this blue medallion around his neck," said Garcia. "He was very approachable, so one day, when we didn't have much to do, I asked him 'What is that medallion? It looks really nice.' And he told me it's for being a good leader."
Garcia said Iturregui inspired him to live up to the Army standard.
"When I graduated from basic training, I told myself I wanted to be like him, I wanted to be like 1st Sgt. Iturregui. He was awesome, he was fair but firm, and he was always to the standard."
The president of RIA's SAMC, Sgt. 1st Class James Borchardt, material integrator, DMC, said SAMC members serve as role models to junior enlisted Soldiers and their peers.
"When they see members wearing their medallions, they are paying attention a little bit more. They say, 'That's the Audie Murphy Club, lets watch and see how they do it, because they are going to do it right,'" he said. "They expect that out of the Soldier."
Borchardt said that Murphy's story serves as a great example for what it means to be a leader and a Soldier.
"Soldiers that are inducted into the (SAMC) are Soldiers that have exemplified the Army values, as Audie Murphy showed during his heroic service in World War II," said Borchardt.
Garcia said Marone was one of the key people who helped him find a place at RIA. Marone emphasized the importance of mentorship to the Army family.
"No Soldier should ever be without direct positive leadership. In the Creed of the Non-commissioned Officer, it states 'All Soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership, I will provide that leadership,'" said Marone.
"This is non-negotiable. I believe it is crucial to take care of all our Soldiers and their families because they take care of all of us -- this is what helps to define us as professionals," he continued.
Garcia also said that he thinks Soldiers should take initiative.
"It's up to the Soldier to seek counseling, to seek coaching, to seek training aids to keep up to standard with themselves and with the Army," he said.
RIA's SAMC members support the community in many ways including volunteering for school mentoring, founding a scholarship and raising other funds for charitable donations.
Only enlisted and non-commissioned officers can be SAMC members. After they are recommended to the club, potential members have to undergo a rigorous board examination, write an essay, and demonstrate their tactical proficiencies.
Borchardt said the process is not easy, but he encouraged Soldiers to take an interest.
"You have to have the discipline to go through the process. A lot of times, you don't get through your first time, or even your second. For me, it took me two times," he said. "I've seen some people take three times. So you have to have that persistence and that discipline.
"If it is something you really want, go out there and try again, again and again until you get it."