KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- "If you put your mind to it you can do anything, you just have to be determined."

These are the words that 1st Sgt. Apryl Williams, a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, tells her Soldiers when they are preparing to go through oral boards and the Basic Leaders Course.

Williams, senior enlisted leader for Company D, 52nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, had to take her own advice when she decided to lead by example and try out for the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, or SAMC.

"I wanted to show my Soldiers that even I, as a first sergeant and as busy as I am, can go out and achieve goals, grow as a leader, and tryout for a club that only a few noncommissioned officers have the privilege of being a part of," said Williams.

The SAMC is a private U.S. Army organization for NCOs whose leadership achievements and performance merit membership in the club. A current club member has to recommend a NCO for them to participate in the rigorous board examination process that leads to membership.

The club -- named after Audie L. Murphy, one of the most decorated World War II combat Soldiers -- was established in 1986 at Fort Hood, Texas and has continued as an honored tradition within the NCO Corps.

With numerous responsibilities as the senior enlisted leader for her company, Williams said the most challenging part of preparing for the board was finding time to devote to her study material.

"When I thought I had an hour to spare to study, something would always come up, but I knew I wanted to set the standard for my Soldiers," she said. "However, I am very thankful to 1st Sgt. Braithwaite for putting together study boards for all the candidates because that would sometimes be my only break away to study and focus."

No stranger to the rigorous study sessions, 1st Sgt. Melinda Braithwaite, senior enlisted leader for Company C, 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, said it was important for her as a sponsor and fellow NCO to provide sessions for the candidates.

"As NCOs we need to continue building a stronger NCO Corps and I think it's great that individuals want to become part of the club," said the Virginia Beach native. "I truly believe being part of this elite club will help make our corps stronger."

Braithwaite, who was inducted into the club in 2011 at Kandahar Airfield, said it was rewarding being able to mentor the candidates and watch William's induction into the elite group.

"I was able to use my personal experiences to mentor these NCOs," she said. "To watch them develop and see how they retained the information was amazing. It feels good to know that each of them was able to learn something new from me and that they were all willing to challenge themselves."

Williams, who was one of 12 Soldiers throughout U.S. Forces Afghanistan to participate in the event and one of six to join the club, said she is thankful for the experience and honored to have made it through the process.

"When I found out I had made it, it was a very humbling and exciting moment," said Williams. "I couldn't wait to call my family and tell them that all my hard work had paid off."

William will officially be inducted and receive her SAMC medallion this September. Until then, she said she is eager to help all NCOs interested in the trying out for the club.

"I have a couple of NCOs who have voiced that they are interested in doing it," she said. "My goal is help as many of my fellow NCOs ... by being there for them, helping them study, and possibly seeing them become members of this elite club."