BAGHDAD - Nine noncommissioned officers arrived at the headquarters of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, to compete for entry into the Sergeant Morales Club, Feb 22.

Soldiers from the Baumholder, Germany based unit competed for the prestigious club, which is the U.S. Army Europe's equivalent to the Audie Murphy club.

The Sergeant Morales Club members exemplify a special kind of leadership, characterized by a personal concern for the needs, training, development, and welfare of Soldiers. In the end, leadership is the primary focus of the Sergeant Morales Club.

"It's an elite organization of the most professional NCOs that exist in the Army today," said Master Sgt. Melissa McFrazier, brigade operations, special projects NCO, 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., a native of Taunton, Mass.

The board is intense, and in the end only one NCO was selected as the best.

Staff Sgt. Eugeniy Mikityuk, a section leader from "Ghost" Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regimentwas the only NCO who made it through the rigorous board.

"I always encourage my Soldiers to exceed and always try to better themselves," said Mikityuk, from Sacramento Calif. "In order for me to lead by example I believe I have to do the same thing, and I'm pretty happy I was selected. When I got back from the board my Solders asked if I made it and I was able to say 'yeah I did,'" he said with a smile.

"To be selected you're basically in the top 1 percent of NCOs in the Army," said Master Sgt. Michael Morton, NCOIC, Iraqi Security Forces Cell, 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., a member of the Sergeant Morales Club board. "It's the Soldier that is be all, know all, do all."

"As a club, we really strive to promote the noncommissioned officer corps and the professionalism of the noncommissioned officer corps." McFrazier said. "To reach back and make sure we continue to mentor those NCOs and those Soldiers who are following behind us."

The Sergeant Morales Club has existed since 1973 and is not a club with an easy entrance exam for non-commissioned officers.

Board members look for Soldiers that will go the extra mile for their troops; looking beyond problems to see solutions. They want to see if an NCO understands and applies both the letter and the spirit of standards and policies, Morton explained.

"If you can't think outside that box, and of all avenues to help that Soldier, then you're not fulfilling what we consider to be a Sergeant Morales member."

The board itself lasted just under two hours for each NCO who went before the board; covering topics from troop leading procedures, Army programs, uniforms, and all points in between.

"I think the board members are a lot more selective over who they recommend into a Morales board," said Mikityuk. "They put a little bit of pressure on you so that if you don't know the answer they'll just throw another one right after that; you're under pressure, you're in the hot seat."

Although eight other Soldiers were turned away from acceptance into the club, just making it that far was an achievement in its own right.

"You have to be hand selected, you have to be selected by your leadership, your first sergeant, your commander, battalion sergeant major, battalion commander, all the way up," said Morton.

"You really set yourself apart, first of all, even just by being recommended by your chain of command to appear before one of these boards," said McFrazier. "Then, if you are in fact selected, a lot of people strive for it and never make it, or are never recommended, (to be in the club) but you may have heard the quote that 'to whom much is given, much is expected.' So we want to make sure that NCOs who come before the board that they truly understand that it's not just a 'check the block', you don't just get recommended into the club and then their obligation is done."

The Sergeant Morales Club is not simply an organization with a difficult entrance exam. Its members constantly participate in various activities throughout the Army in Europe to support the Army community along with training other Soldiers. Sergeant Morales members organize study symposiums to help Soldiers prepare for boards, participate in programs that develop Soldiers professionally and personally, and look for opportunities to give back to their communities, said Morton.

"It's a service based organization, we give back to the community. We want to make sure we are viewed as professionals and that we continue that trend," said McFrazier. .

Soldiers who are interested in joining the Sergeant Morales Club, despite the difficulties involved, are encouraged to do so.

"It's not unachievable, but it is difficult, and if it wasn't difficult it wouldn't be an elite organization."

2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Multi National Division - Baghdad, plans to hold another Sergeant Morales Club board in March. For more information about the board or how to be recommended, NCOs can contact their chain of command or other Sergeant Morales Club members.