The Sergeant Audie Murphy Club originated at Fort Hood in 1986 and remains one of the most prestigious clubs in the Army, open only to noncommissioned officers of the highest caliber.
Sgt. 1st Class Misti Peña, 89th Military Police Brigade, was inducted into the club Dec. 3 after two years of rigorous preparation. Her inclusion makes her one of only about 30 women in the club of 300.
For Peña, joining the club was the type of accomplishment she sought her entire life.
“I come from absolutely nothing,” she said. Neither of her parents were educated, pushing her to join the Army to seek better opportunities. “I’ve never been the best at anything. To become something is something I wanted more than anything,” she said.
Peña described the preparation process as stressful. She began studying in 2011, after learning about the club while she worked in recruiting a few years prior. Peña passed board after board, but “you never feel like you’re ready enough ... I dreamt about it. I was walking around the house saying his bio over and over. I didn’t want to go there and not make it,” she said.
Upon her induction, she was smiling from ear to ear, excited to share the news with her husband, who is also a member of the club, along with her 3-year-old son. Through the board process, Peña was selected as the brigade Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and placed second in the postwide “best warrior competition.”
Through the club, Peña met Sgt. Diana Vazquez, 36th Engineer Brigade. The two formed a tight bond that has allowed them to lend each other a helping hand. Vazquez was inducted into the club in July 2012 after about 2½ years of preparation.
Recently, Peña was seeking razor wire and knew she could call Vazquez.
“It’s a trust level,” Vazquez said. “It’s a membership. It brings us closer. Being in engineer land, now I can reach out to the MPs and vice versa. It’s a lot of networking.” On a post the size of Fort Hood, these connections are vital in efficiently accomplishing tasks.
Both Peña and Vazquez encourage their fellow soldiers to strive to join the club, especially female soldiers.
“It’s something that separates us. We are the one percent in the Army and for females, it’s an even smaller (percentage). He was a male, he was an infantryman. It’s something to be proud of,” Peña said.
Vazquez loves the volunteer opportunities the club affords its members, which her family members also can join in on.
“We do color guard, food pantries, feeding people on Thanksgiving. ... I benefit, my family benefits and the club benefits,” she said. They also participated in a clothes drive for a local women’s shelter, a jacket drive for children and a toy drive for Operation Homefront.
Balance is a key quality the club has forced Vazquez to aspire to.
“Time management is important. You have to balance family, friends, work and (the club). (But) I just knew I wanted to be part of something bigger than a unit,” she said.
Now, Peña plans to pay it forward.
“Some of these younger soldiers look up to us as leaders. We have to set that example for them. Now I can focus my attention ... to the soldiers below me. When you let them know you’re story, it’s inspiring for them,” Peña said.