Top-notch NCOs strive for the Sergeant Audie Murphy Award

By Sgt. 1st Class LaTonya Kelly | 63rd Readiness Division | Sept. 21, 2018

Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif. — It’s the first time that an Army Reserve Readiness Division has hosted and selected top-notch noncommissioned officers into the prestigious Sergeant Audie Murphy Award (SAMA) program. The 63rd Readiness Division accepted an immense responsibility of leading and hosting a competitive SAMA board on May 28, 2018. 

The SAMA is given to outstanding NCOs that has earned the prestigious award by surpassing leadership qualities, performance, and discipline characterized by those of Sergeant Audie Murphy. 

Three awardees, Sgt. Maj. Stephen Haynes, 80th Training Command Chief Operation NCO, Sgt. 1st Class Francisco Matos, 63rd Readiness Division Construction Operations NCOIC and Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Caffey, 84th Training Division OPFOR OC were recognized with honor for exemplifying the standards for leadership and commitment to excellence. 

Over 200 attendees joined together at Fort Hunter Liggett Military Installation to recognize the newly appointed leaders for their accomplishments. 

Command Sgt. Maj. Kelly Largent, 63rd Readiness Division command Sgt. Maj., and president of phase IV of the SAMA worked collectively with Command sgt. maj. DeeAnn Dunstan, Fort Hunter Liggett command sergeant major to host two SAMA boards to increase Army Reserve participation based on the vital requirements of the U.S. Army Forces Command

“I encourage top-notch NCOs to compete in the Sergeant Audie Murphy Award program because it makes them better and selfless leaders. It’s only a small fraction of top-notch NCOs, but it makes them 360 NCOs. It makes them more well-rounded leaders,” Largent stated.

After a competitive week, two additional Soldiers were identified in proving mental toughness, exemplary fitness abilities, and meeting the intense requirements of all phases of the SAMA board. Sgt. 1st Class Hendricks, Stephanie, Mountain View, Calif., Army Reserve Career Division (ARCD) and Master Sgt. Velez, Edwin, USARC G-1, Fort Bragg, N.C., were identified as new selectees and notified on Sept. 14.

Sgt. Maj. Wayne Penn, 63rd RD Department of Human Resources sergeant major, recommended Sgt. 1st Class Hendricks to pursue SAMA after attending an informative meeting in March. Hendricks eventually agreed to compete after realizing the significance and prestige of SAMA.

“My dad, Charles Hendricks, a retired E-7 was inducted into the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club and that alone encouraged me to follow his footsteps,” expressed Hendricks.

Hendricks also stated, “It’s very rare for leaders from ARCD to compete in SAMA. I would not been able to compete at this level without the support of my 14-year son, Devin. He continually asked questions based on the Army regulation to help prepare me for the board.”

Master Sgt. Velez enthusiastically welcomed the news of being selected when the panelist of eight Sgt. Maj. Board members informed him that he successfully passed phase IV of the SAMA board. Velez stated, “This has been a dream for me for over 10 years, a journey that I sacrificed for and put a lot on the line.”

Velez previously competed and on his third try he used resiliency skills to pass the board. Velez further revealed, “The question remained for years, “what if” and I encourage my Soldiers to keep trying and not accept failure. I encourage others to compete to prove themselves and accept the challenges, are you willing to lead from the front and be an example for others to follow.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Largent also encourages Soldiers to keep trying and never accept defeat. Largent advised, “There is something very powerful that happens in not being selected during the first time in SAMA or any goal in life, but with the right attitude, mentorship and good re-training plan, we can achieve anything.”

Mentorship is imperative during the preparation for the SAMA board and every participant is encouraged to have a sponsor. 

Hendricks acknowledged the mentorship and additional support from her sponsor, Master Sgt. Nguyen Lu, her training partner, Sgt. 1st Class Francisco Matos, mentor and supporter, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Timothy Conley, and her ARCD NCOIC, Master Sgt. Hector Soto. 

Another SAMA board will take place in November 2018 at Parks Reserve Forces Training Area and top-notch NCOs are encouraged to prepare and compete. The Sgt. Audie Murphy Club (SAMC) was created to develop, inspire, and motivate the best leaders possible in the U.S. Army.