Friends, family and honored guests gathered at the Haig Room in Jefferson Hall Library to recognize three non-commissioned officers as they were inducted into the West Point Chapter Sgt. Audie Murphy Club during an Induction Ceremony on March 29.
Sgts. 1st Class Demtrious Howard, I-3 Tactical Noncommissioned Officer, Alan Frink, D-1 Tactical NCO, and Brandon Roque, Department of Military Instruction instructor, were awarded the Sgt. Audie Murphy Medallion and an Army Commendation Medal by Brig. Gen. Curtis A. Buzzard, commandant of the U.S. Corp of Cadets, and Command Sgt. Maj. Ken Killingsworth, U.S. Corps of Cadets senior enlisted leader.
As guest speaker, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Engstrom, West Point SAMC President and E-3 Tactical NCO, said Sgt. Audie Murphy was one of the most accomplished American infantry Soldiers during World War II. He earned every military combat award for valor, including the Purple Heart, the Medal of Honor and the Silver Star. Audie Murphy’s service to his country was exemplary of the seven Army values an NCO should uphold.
“One of Audie Murphy’s best-known qualities is to lead from the front,” Engstrom said. “It certainly defined Sgt. Murphy’s life. It’s a principle that we seek to instill in the cadets we are developing to become the Army’s future leaders. It is a principle that we see in action, each and every day in our NCOs We’re recognizing NCOs who have led from the front throughout their careers, and especially during their time here at West Point.”
This year’s Sgt. Audie Murphy competition started with the Army Combat Fitness Test. The ACFT minimum score in each event was 70 points. If the inductees had not met that standard, they wouldn’t have been allowed to go forward. Immediately following the ACFT, the inductees were tasked with a six-mile ruck march they had to complete in less than an hour and 30 minutes. Subsequently, the next task took them to the Engagement Skills Trainer: a simulation of an M-4 assault rifle range for qualification, Engstrom explained.
The inductees began the second day of the competition at 7 a.m. at Buffalo Soldier Field where they had to complete a land navigation course.
“We spread six land navigation points throughout the entire containment area and it is a very interesting test because there’s a cognitive portion,” Engstrom said. “They look at a map, and there’s different units on the map, and they get to stare at it for 45 seconds, and then they take off and they have to find their six points, which are very spread apart. The intent is to try and memorize where everything is because when they left, we move them around and of the 24 units that were on the ground, they had a chance to gain extra points if they could identify three or six of them, respectively, one or two points.”
Engstrom added the altitude peaks vary in elevation from the south dock of the tower, which reaches about 1,000 feet in elevation change. Not only do they have to deal with the elevation change, but they also find the points using a map, compass, protractor and land navigation skills they’ve hone throughout their military careers.
“The map with the units on it serves a cognitive purpose for the trainees. The cognitive portion was added as a gradable event as an alternative to doing standard leg tucks. So that’s a very recent change,” Engstrom said. “The change just dropped (several weeks ago). That's something I want the future candidates to know. This is a very relevant and new standard that is applicable to one of the most fundamental things we do in our physical training program.”
After completing the land navigation test, the inductees appeared before the board on Thursday and had to recite the Audie Murphy bio, which takes about four and a half minutes to complete. They have to know the bio verbatim and know enough Audie Murphy history and what the club represents, Engstrom said.
The inductees were also faced with questions asked by the board members, on a wide variety of Army topics ranging from Army Regulations to Direct Action forms.
“They get situational-based questions,” Engstrom said. “That varies in difficulty in a lot of promotion boards for the enlisted promotion system, they’re going in, and me as a first sergeant on the board, I’m going to ask a Soldier, ‘Alright, what’s the DA form for awards? What’s the DA form for height and weight standards? How many times can a Soldier fail physical fitness tests before you kick them out of the Army?’ Those are specific questions that have a right or wrong answer. So we, in the Audie Murphy Club and the board procedure, we ask situational based questions.”
After three days of hard work and determination, the three inductees successfully completed the course becoming the newest members of the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club.
“It’s relieving to finally receive this award,” Roque said. “This is my second time attempting this so to finally get it is a breath of fresh air and very relieving.”
Frink was almost speechless receiving the award finding it difficult to put in words how happy he felt becoming a club member.
“It’s a great honor to be in a club with NCOs who are resilient, honorable and who go above and beyond their duties,” Frink said of his peers during the ceremony.
Similar to Roque, this was Howard’s second time going through the competition. Taking in the prestige of the ceremony reminded him of the grit and the resiliency that one needs to display every day to become a club member, he said.
“I mean it’s great just to be surrounded by so many like-minded NCOs who always strive for the best and never want to settle. The people I work with every day make it 10 times easier for me to do my job in the Army,” Howard said. “This experience has expanded my horizons. It allowed me to open up into a new realm of leadership and the club. I’m here with a bunch of great NCOs who want to help each other out and ultimately take care of each other. That’s what we’re here for. That’s what we do, not just taking care of Soldiers but preparing them for a better future.”