JOINT BASE MCGUIRE DIX LAKEHURST N.J. -- Seven First Army Division East noncommissioned officers competed at the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club board, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., January 25, in hopes of proving themselves to be among the top NCOs within the United States Army.

"Becoming a Sergeant Audie Murphy Club member is a clear demonstration to your subordinates that you're one of the best NCOs in the Army," said First Army Division East's senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis E. Defreese. "By doing this and showing them how you've pushed yourself, you're giving them something to aspire to. These noncommissioned officers are a tangible representation of the top one-percent within our NCO corps."

The Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, a U.S. Army organization for enlisted noncommissioned officers, recognizes Soldiers whose leadership achievements and performance merit special attention. Members must exemplify leadership characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development, and welfare of Soldiers, and concern for families of Soldiers.

"Induction into the SAMC is an outward symbol of what we, as NCOs, should strive to be," said Sgt. 1st Class Erica Lehmkuhl, First Army Division East, and one of the SAMC board members. "We look for the NCOs in the unit who have a special edge. The NCO who may not know the answer to your question but knows where to find it and will do anything to ensure Soldiers, whether subordinate, peer, or senior, are taken care of."

Wearing the Audie Murphy medallion, Lehmkuhl added, tells those around you that you're the NCO who will go above and beyond, and you truly demonstrate the SAMC motto - "lead from the front."

Prior to the board, the Soldiers received pep-talks from multiple senior noncommissioned officers. They encouraged the competing Soldiers to be confident and to rely on their experience.

Sgt. 1st Class Emanuel Huff was the first candidate to step before the gauntlet of board members.

"I am extremely anxious thinking about the results," said Huff, a trainer mentor with 2-309th Training Support Regiment, 174th Infantry Regiment, and native of Landover, M.D., upon completing the board.

"You can do a lot of studying, but when it comes down to it, it's your experience that matters."

Huff added the hardest part for him during the board was facing multiple top-notch senior noncommissioned officers and being able to quickly and correctly respond to the questions fired at him.

Preparing for the Sergeant Audie Murphy board -- no easy task -- requires a lot of after-hours attention from each candidate, said Staff Sgt. Michael Benvenuto.

"I've had three other practice boards in preparation for this one," said Benvenuto, a trainer mentor with 2-315th Field Artillery, 72nd Field Artillery Brigade, and native of Riverside, Calif. "I've had study groups, stuck my head in the manual and talked to peers and supervisors to get ready."

He added the biggest challenge for him would be the ability to clarify and convey his answers in a manner in which the board could understand.

"The first {preparation} board I participated in, I stood before the board members for two hours, drenched in sweat and beyond nervous. Today, I feel prepared."

Benvenuto was the last candidate to go in front of the board.

"It's an honor in itself to get selected to go to the board," said Benvenuto. "I'm beyond excited. Making it, and becoming a Sergeant Audie Murphy Club member, will be like the cake and ice cream."

Benvenuto was selected by a current SAMC member to compete at the board just as the rest of the Soldiers.

"The candidates today showed a different level of commitment," said Defreese. "Our goal was to select NCO's worthy of induction into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, and maintain the integrity of the selection process."

Defreese added he believes the reasons for wanting to become a member should be about what the club does, and what it means to be part of it.

"My goal is to be inducted," said Huff. "It's important to me and should be to all other NCOs. I feel that I can be a great asset to the club and help motivate others to push themselves to the best of their abilities also."

In addition, Huff said that this is the best bench mark for noncommissioned officers, adding if a Soldier is confident, he or she can do anything.

The trainer mentors inducted into the SAMC at First Army Division East rely on their knowledge and experience to assist in the overall mission of mobilizing, training, validating, and deploying Reserve Component Soldiers around the globe and demobilizing them upon their return home. The skill-sets and knowledge of the noncommissioned officers, which competed at the SAMC, set them apart from their peers.

Out of the seven Soldiers who competed, five will be inducted, including Huff and Benvenuto.