BAGHDAD- After months of preparation and hours of studying, 16 noncommissioned officers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, participated in a two-day evaluation for a shot at induction into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club (SAMC), April 11 at Joint Security Station Loyalty.

The club was established to recognize NCOs who demonstrate high leadership qualities, professionalism and care for their Soldiers' welfare.

The SAMC is named after the most decorated Soldier in U.S. history, Audie Murphy. Despite being denied entry into the Marines and the Paratroopers for his height, the 5 ft., 5 in., Texas native earned every medal for valor including the military's highest award, the Medal of Honor, during World War II.

Following two days of testing, Command Sgt. Maj. King O. Parks, the senior enlisted leader of the 3rd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., announced 12 out of the 16 competitors were moving on to the division-level evaluation process.

Parks said this event embodies the legacy of Audie Murphy and recognizes the great leaders in the NCO ranks of the 3rd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div and the Army. He also said this event is a great example to honor the Army's year-long theme "Year of the Noncommissioned Officer."

"This highlights the great accomplishments of great NCOs because that was what Audie Murphy was," said the native of Greenville, N.C. "This event is an excellent opportunity for NCOs to make themselves better, and it is a fitting way to hold this event in combat during the Army's "Year of the NCO."

Unlike a traditional board, which just consist of a question and answer session between a Soldier and several of the unit's senior enlisted leaders, the SAMC board has participants go through a series of evaluations.
During the event, Paratroopers went through a gauntlet of events such as a physical fitness test, a hands-on evaluation on the functions of several crew-served weapons, proper first-aid procedures and a leadership board where the NCOs were asked a series of leadership-based situational questions.

One of the participants, Staff Sgt. Matthew Zwolinski, assigned to Company A, Brigade Special Troops Battalion, said preparing for the SAMC was a challenge because he had to try and study following his combat patrols. As a combat engineer, Zwolinski can spend several hours on the road during route clearance missions.

"It is definitely a sacrifice to participate in this event," said the Chicago native. "I used whatever free time I had following a mission to study for this event."

"Although it was a sacrifice, I feel this sets a good example for my Soldiers to follow and it sets me apart from my peers."

Zwolinski and the other selected NCOs will now move on to the division-level evaluation where a panel of senior enlisted members from various units within MND-B come together and select the inductees. The Corps headquarters board is the final step for the would-be Audie Murphy members. An official announcement of the newest members to the club is set to come later this spring.