14 Grafenwöhr NCOs enter prestigious Audie Murphy Club
By STEVEN BEARDSLEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 7, 2012
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — An infantry brigade here inducted more than a dozen of its noncommissioned officers into the esteemed Sergeant Audie Murphy Club on Friday, an honor typically reserved for soldiers in U.S.-based units.
During a Friday ceremony, the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade welcomed 14 NCOs into the organization, which recognizes leadership in the example of Murphy, America’s most decorated World War II veteran and an author and movie star.
All earned the distinction while deployed on a 12-month tour to eastern Afghanistan, where they fell under the command of the U.S.-based 1st Cavalry Division, a distinction that provided eligibility.
U.S. Army Europe Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport congratulated each of the 13 in attendance for passing their boards while still accomplishing downrange duties.
“These NCOs understood that training and professional development doesn’t stop just because you’re deployed in a tough area,” Davenport told an audience at the post movie theater.
Candidates were required to pass four boards between the company and division level. Each board was offered once a quarter, and soldiers were allowed to return to a board during the quarter if rejected initially.
Each board tests soldier knowledge of Army regulations and field manuals, as well as situational knowledge. The questions are open-ended and often require quick thinking, soldiers said.
Sgt. Olga Burgos, an automated logistical specialist with the brigade support battalion, said studying proved time-consuming.
“If I had off-time — real off-time — it was spent studying for Audie Murphy,” she said.
Staff Sgt. Stephane Douge, a power generator maintainer with the support battalion, said he had to steel himself for a return to the company-level board after his first attempt ended in a curt rejection. The open-ended format initially proved difficult, he said.
“That was the biggest thing,” he said. “If a sudden situation comes on, how do you respond and maintain your professionalism?”
Administration of the board process was also complicated , said brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Boom. Candidates had to be ferried between postsamid ongoing operations.
“We also had to get them back ASAP, because their soldiers were in contact (with the enemy),” he said. “That was the biggest challenge.”
More than 20 candidates in the brigade were nominated for membership, Boom said.
Davenport said organizations such as the Audie Murphy Club and its Europe-based peer, the Sgt. Morales Club, are increasingly important certifications needed to distinguish top NCOs. The Sgt. Morales Club is named for a fictional NCO.
In June, Davenport rewrote the policy for the Sgt. Morales Club to have it adhere more closely to the Audie Murphy selection process. Europe-based soldiers inducted to the Audie Murphy club are now inducted into the Sgt. Morales Club, as well. The soldiers honored Friday received a medallion for both the Audie Murphy Club and Sgt. Morales Club.
“Those (clubs) force the NCOs to get on the books,” Davenport said. “It’s kind of like taking the bar exam.”
The inducted soldiers
First Sgt. James S. Mastrodomenico
First Sgt. Aaron L. Beckman
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Epstein
Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Humphrey
Sgt. 1st Class Leonado May
Staff Sgt. Stewart Burkey
Staff Sgt. Matthew W. Carter
Staff Sgt. Aldus Coffee
Staff Sgt. Kevin Gettys
Staff Sgt. Joshua Parker
Staff Sgt. Johnathan S. Ray
Staff Sgt. Stephane Douge
Sgt. Olga Burgos
Sgt. Kayla Coffee
— Source: Event program
First Sgt. James S. Mastrodomenico of C Company 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade is inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club during a Friday ceremony in Grafenwöhr, Germany. U.S. Army Europe Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport, left, is joined by brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Boom, right foreground, and brigade commander Col. Edward T. Bohnemann.
STEVEN BEARDSLEY/STARS AND STRIPES