By Ben Rogers, Fort Meade Public Affairs Office
The Sergeant Audie Murphy Award medallion sits upon Sgt. 1st Class George Lehman’s chest as he holds his family close, posing for a photo during an award ceremony on Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. Dec. 9, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Mr. Axel Collazo).
Sergeant Audie Murphy Association established at Fort Meade
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. – The Sergeant Audie Murphy Association has a new chapter at Fort Meade, and its members are making an impact.
The Fort Meade SAM-A is a non-profit organization established September 1, 2021. Their members are non-commissioned officers who have earned the SAM Award and actively develop and sustain a professional NCO corps, Army readiness, and safe communities.
President of the organization, Sgt. 1st Class Prince Yohannes, spearheads their involvement in projects that benefit the fort, such as area beautification, Wreaths Across America, volunteer shopper program at the commissary, and helping with the Martha’s Kitchen project.
This year the association is adding more to its plate with the Nike Missile restoration project, organizing and leading the Tribute to the Fallen event, Special Olympics fundraiser, and blazing a new Audie Murphy fitness trail.
It all started in 2019 when Yohannes approached garrison leadership with the idea to bring a SAM-A to Fort Meade.
They liked the idea too and asked Yohannes to take the lead and establish a chapter.
Establishing a SAM-A requires the support of the garrison command sergeant major, who oversees and validates the association, and at least one Sergeant Audie Murphy Award recipient who is assigned to the fort and involves themselves with the community.
With all the elements in place, Yohannes started a bi-weekly study hall at the McGill Training Center, where candidates study for the rigorous multi-board process required to receive the SAM Award.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Yohannes moved his study group to virtual meetings, where they continued to prepare. Guest speakers from all over the globe would attend virtually to provide valuable insights and motivation to the aspiring candidates and members of the group.
One year later, 12 Soldiers and one honorary Soldier completed the selection process and received the award, earning the right to establish a SAM-A at Fort Meade.
Members of the SAM-A council are Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Lairscey, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rodriquez, Sgt. Maj. Nathaniel Piper, Sgt. 1st Class Andrea Collins, Maj. Marvin Phillips and Yohannes.
“Membership in the Sergeant Audie Murphy Association is a privilege and contains the highest caliber of Non-commissioned officers in the U.S. Army,” said Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Behnkendorf. “Fort George G. Meade is honored to continue the tradition by hosting a chapter of SAM-A on this installation. It is imperative that we recognize and support these members who strive for greatness.”
Those that seek out the award do so not for the elite recognition but to grow as leaders. They are available to support their garrison, fellow service members and contribute to the surrounding community. They recognize that strength comes from teamwork, selfless service, duty, respect, loyalty, honor, personal courage, and integrity.
“Going through the award process helped me identify what kind of leader I wanted to be and who I was as a leader,” Yohannes said. “It allowed me to be consistent as a leader and as a Soldier.”
“The award process gave me a fuller understanding of what it is that I fight for and what it means to go the last 100 yards for a soldier,” Yohannes continues. “The Audie Murphie board is not something you go after because you want an ‘atta-boy’ or ‘pat-on-the-back.’ It’s because the selectees understand the expectations that will be placed upon us, because we want to make changes for the betterment of our organizations and communities.”
Audie Murphy is the most decorated American combat soldier of World War II. He received every combat award for valor, 33 total including the Medal of Honor, available from the U.S. Army, and five awards for heroism from France and Belgium. The SAM Award is an elite award for NCOs whose leadership achievements and performance merit special recognition. The award recognizes those NCOs who have contributed significantly to developing a professional NCO Corps and a combat-ready Army. Awardees exemplify leadership, characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development, and welfare of Soldiers and their families.
To discover more about the association, follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fortmeadesamc or contact the association directly: Sgt. 1st Class Yohannes (president) 1-618-409-3294, Staff Sgt. Rodriquez (vice president) 1-301-677-8699, or Sgt. 1st Class Collins (secretary) 1-573-872-9375.
Fort George G. Meade Maryland is the nation’s platform for intelligence, information, and cyber operations.