Hartselle native earns Soldier of the Year honors
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Even though he knew he had a good chance of being nominated, Spc. Bart Murphy was pleasantly surprised when the Army recently selected him to be the 2003 Soldier of the Year.
However, the award was to be only the first of a long string of achievements for the budding military man who enlisted less than two years ago.
Murphy, 32, son of Joe and Carolyn Murphy of Hartselle, appeared before a panel of eight sergeant majors (the highest enlisted ranking officers) to answer approximately 40 questions regarding army knowledge, military bearing and current events. He also performed facing movements used in drills and ceremonies and underwent a detailed uniform inspection.
"I had to walk in and sit facing the commanding sergeant major," Murphy recalled. "It makes you pretty nervous to be in front of your command like that."
Of the six Army soldiers selected for the interview process, Murphy made a lasting impression on the panel and was named Soldier of the Year.
As a result, he later received the first of two Army Commendation Medals.
"I've heard you really have to do something good to receive it," Murphy said. "My NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) said people usually don't get those until they've served for a while."
The award and medal also brought Murphy a few unexpected perks.
"I got a pair of dress blues and Class A's, which are standard green suit uniforms," Murphy said. "I also got perks like parking passes and a plaque to display in the ceremony/flag room."
It was an unofficial acknowledgement of his achievement from his general and sergeant major that Murphy seemed most excited about, though.
"I received a coin from each of them as a perk," Murphy said. "You only get one when you've done something really good."
Murphy, stationed at the Human Resource Command in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Priscilla, twin daughters, Bri'anna and Brittany, 8, and son Benjamin, 20 months, currently works with customer service as an information systems technician.
His second Army Commendation Medal resulted from his four months of service with the Casualty and Memorial Affairs Operation Center (CMAOC). During his service with the unit, Murphy was in charge of reports and operations in keeping track of soldiers missing, wounded, or killed in action during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"It is a pretty hectic job," Murphy admitted. "CMAOC has a lot going on and a lot of soldiers to keep track of. More so now than then. Our job was to make sure each soldier was taken care of. We track them from the time a soldier is captured or killed until release or burial. We also keep the Pentagon Chief of Staff abreast of the situation. In a job like that, you have to focus. You can't let you emotions interfere."
Murphy was also able to assist the unit with technical support and remained on the job two additional weeks after his assignment ended.
"I thought I needed to stay and help wrap up some paperwork and loose ends," Murphy said.
For going above and beyond the call of duty, Murphy, a private first class at the time, was the only lower enlisted soldier to receive an Army Commendation Medal for his efforts with CMAOC.
After being honored as Soldier of the Year and receiving both medals, Murphy was promoted to the rank of specialist.
"It's an unusual honor for someone who's only been in the Army less than two years," Murphy said. "I think it will require more leadership skills and prepare me for my Professional Leadership Development course in Fort Campbell, Ky., in March."
Having taken computer courses at the University of Maryland and American Military University, Murphy is currently working toward completing his bachelor's degree in information systems management.
"I have another four years of service. After that, I'll look at all my options," Murphy said of his future plans.
Murphy and his family will return home to Hartselle Dec. 22 for a four-day holiday visit and then travel to Florida to visit his uncle.