By T. Anthony Bell, Fort Lee Public AffairsApril 16, 2009
Fort Lee, Va. (April 16, 2009) -- His credentials are remarkable:
Three Purple Hearts;
Two Bronze Stars with valor device;
One Legion of Merit;
Two Silver Stars;
One Distinguished Service Cross;
And one Medal of Honor.
Audie Murphy's incredible heroics during World War II defied belief, carried a potent storyline worthy of a big screen portrayal and elevated him to the status of living legend.
They were also a sterling example of noncommissioned officer leadership on the battlefield.
The latter was the impetus for the creation of the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club, an organization of elite Soldiers formed in 1986 whose members continuously strive to become leaders worthy of emulation in the Army and within their communities.
SAMC chapters are located at installations all over the United States. However, there is not a chapter at Fort Lee, but Command Sgt. Maj. C.C. Jenkins aims to change that. Jenkins, the top enlisted Soldier assigned to the Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee, said a Fort Lee chapter of the club will be established sometime later this year.
Sgt. 1st Class Zelon Odom is the installation's point man to establish the club. The Quartermaster Center and School's Operations noncommissioned officer in charge, Odom has been an SAMC member 11 years. He said SAMC members endeavor to set themselves apart from their peers, and that was his motivation to attain membership.
"I wanted to be a part of a group of people who do things above and beyond on a daily basis," said the 19-year Soldier. "I also wanted to work in the community to support our veterans and schools."
"Above and beyond" might be an understatement in describing the battlefield exploits of Murphy. The son of poor Texas sharecroppers, he joined the Army in 1942 as a teenager. He saw his first combat action a year later in Sicily, performing to an extent that earned him the rank of corporal. By the time the war was over, the 5-foot, 5-inch, slight-of-build Murphy had been promoted to captain, had killed more than 200 enemy Soldiers and taken many others prisoner, not to mention saving hundreds of lives.
Murphy went on to become a Hollywood mega star and played himself in the movie, "To Hell and Back." He also became a crusader for veteran causes and was one of the few who spoke out about 'battle fatigue,' commonly known today as post traumatic stress disorder.
Those noncommissioned officers who want to share in Murphy's legacy and become a member of the club must be recommended by their chain of command. Consequently, they should plan on subjecting themselves to a rigorous screening process, said Odom.
"I've seen guys go two or three times and not get it," he said. "Every post does it differently, and we haven't determined how we're going to do it here, but where I went you had to take a PT test. You had to qualify with your weapon. You had to do land navigation, and then you had to appear before the board where all the sergeants major inspected you. I was in front of the board for about three hours, and they just grill you and grill you."
Odom said the distinction between regular NCO duties and that of SAMC members are in the details.
"Every NCO should take care of Soldiers," he said, "but I think being an Audie Murphy member, we take care of our Soldiers, and we try to groom our fellow NCOs to take our place to go out in the community, mentor at schools, promote the Army and show people what it's all about."
Odom said there are about 14 SAMC members on the installation. He said he wants to bring them back into the fold to support community efforts and help others attain membership.
"We'll have a study group to help them, but we'll also help anyone who is studying for regular boards," he said. "They're more than welcome."