FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. –
The 63rd Readiness Division and Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., teamed up and hosted the first SAMA Phase III and IV boards at FHL in September 2017, and once again during the week of May 21, 2018. Five Army Reserve Soldiers participated in the SAMA’s intensive tests, and at the end, only two Soldiers proved their mettle to live up to Staff Sgt. Audie Murphy’s heroic standards of leadership and selfless service: Sgt. 1st Class Francisco Matos with the 63rd RD, and Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Caffey with the 91st Training Division.
Largent and Dunstan developed a strategic plan about a year and a half ago to host at least two boards a year at FHL, and to form a chapter with the proposed name of the “West Coast Chapter.” They are leading the way to promote the SAMA with Army Reserve Soldiers every chance they get.
“Fort Hunter Liggett is perfect to service the West Coast,” said Dunstan. “Our recommendation is that we use Army Reserve installations, with each garrison CSM assisting, to be the permanent locations(s) to support the Army Reserve and form chapters across the U.S.”
According to Dunstan, the importance of the SAMA board is that it is not like other boards. In addition to the usual tests to establish a Soldier’s physical, mental, weapons, and leadership skills, the SAMA board also tests one’s character and morals.
“Testing one’s character and morals is not a simple test of efficiency on a weapon or memorization of regulations,” said Dunstan. Prospective Soldiers have to be the “best of the best,” and live and breath Murphy’s motto – “you lead from the front.”
So, just how hard is it to actually to be inducted into the SAMA program? “It’s more difficult than actually being selected for Best Warrior and NCO of the Year….it’s a very small group,” said Largent. He adds that the selection rate for the first time facing the board is less than 50 percent. “It’s going to challenge you to be a better leader even if you’re not selected the first time,” said Largent, “and the continued pursuit of professional and leadership development challenges is key.”
Matos and Caffey both agreed that the most challenging aspects of the process were time management and reciting the 444-word Audie Murphy biography verbatim.
Caffey is an exercise opposing forces observer/controller with the 3/290 BN 91st TD, Mustang, Oklahoma, and demonstrated her passion to take care of Soldiers. In her civilian capacity, she is a registered nurse with the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center. “Taking care of Veterans, it’s what I love and where my heart is,” said Caffey.
She works in the cardiac catheterization lab and is often on-call. “I had to be very vigilant with my time. Every waking moment was work, studying in between cases, lunch, trying to figure out when to work out, and recognizing when to rest,” said Caffey. She also credits her husband for being very supportive.
Matos has served in the active and reserve components since 2003, deployed to Kuwait and Iraq, and has been a Little League Baseball coach for many years. His sponsor, Master Sgt. Nguyen Lu told the board how he met Matos at the post gym several years ago and how Matos, as a fervent fitness advocate, provided suggestions on how to improve or maximize his workout.
Matos said going through the board was not easy. “You walk in there, and you think you’re prepared.” Candidates facing the boards found that they didn’t have all the answers to the myriad questions that ranged from one’s knowledge of regulations, current events, and scenarios testing one’s decisions as a leader. Board members are not concerned that candidates may not know all the answers; it’s about being honest and demonstrating the willingness to learn and improve.
“At the end of the day, you just have to be yourself. The type of leader you are, that’s something you can’t fake,” said Matos.
Largent states that if you have aspirations to elevate in the NCO ranks, want a unique opportunity to separate yourself from your peers and boost your chances for a promotion, then trying for the SAMA is for you. And as a bonus, “The selfless service to give back is life-changing. Once you start giving, you can’t enough,” he said.
If you’re still not sure if trying for the Club is for you, take this advice from someone who just went through it and survived. “Do it!” Matos said. “This was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in the Army.” He plans to sponsor his younger brother, an Army drill sergeant.
The SAMA program and chapter namesake, Staff Sgt. Audie Leon Murphy served in the 15th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division and fought in in North Africa, Siciliy, Italy, France, and Germany. He is the highest decorated Soldier in American history, awarded the Medal of Honor and three Purple Hearts, one Belgian and three French medals, and earned a battlefield commission for his courage and leadership ability. For more information: http://www.audiemurphy.com/samc.htm.