CW4 Garland Duwayne Williams U.S. Army (Ret) (1971-2011)
CW4 Garland Duwayne Williams
U.S. Army (Ret)
(Veterans – record and share your own service story with friends and family by joining www.togetherweserved.com. This is a free service)
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE ARMY?
As I was growing up, I hoped to join the Air Force, attend their academy and become a Fighter Pilot. The thought of being a pilot always fascinated me, and was influenced by the fact that my dad had a small airplane when I was young. He was a WWII combat veteran, as were others in our family, so I naturally was inclined to join. It never occurred to me not to. However, during the draft of the Vietnam War, I received a change in plans. My neighborhood friend, Michael Capron (see my memorial list), had a friend who worked at the Van Nuys, CA draft board. He had mentioned his draft number, as well as mine, to his friend to keep an eye out for. He received a call on a Thursday telling him that both of our draft numbers had been picked. The notices wouldn’t go out until Monday, but we were headed for the Army. I had no desire to join the Army, but if I had to do two years, I wanted the best deal I could get, so we decided to go to our local recruiter and enlist for two years instead of being drafted.
We were told that an enlistee would receive much better treatment than a draftee. We could enlist unassigned, and pick our jobs when we were in Basic Training. (By the way, the recruiter lied, but that’s another story).
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
When I enlisted, I wanted to get into Army Intelligence, which sounded like a good job to have. Not that I knew anything about it, it just sounded great. But after I joined as “Unassigned,” the Army decided I looked more like Infantry. I thought I was too small tohaul around rucksacks and do Infantry things, so I was delighted to find out that they had Mechanized Infantry in mind. I became an M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier driver. I wouldn’t have to walk as much, and I could be behind the armor plate of the vehicle. That was until I saw how easily our .50 cal rounds went through the armor. Suddenly, it didn’t sound like such a good place to be.
But during AIT, a recruiter visited our unit looking for volunteers to go to Airborne School. He was very convincing and impressive looking, and said we could make an ADDITIONAL $55 per month for making a minimum of one parachute jump every 90 days. Wow, that was a 50% increase in my $100 monthly pay check.
I was also selected to attend the Army’s Non-Commissioned Officer Candidate School (NCOES) at Ft Benning, GA. It seems that they were selecting only those of us who were volunteers, and sending the rest to Vietnam. So, I guess being a volunteer did have its perks. And on top of that, I would become an Infantry Operations and Intelligence NCO, so in a way, I did get into Army Intelligence, just not the route I had planned.
After graduation, I was assigned to the 1st Cav Div at Ft Hood, TX. Initially, I was assigned to HHC, 1/8th Cav, but I noticed that there was a Ranger unit assigned to the Cav, so I saw their 1st Sgt to see if there was a chance of reassignment. He told me that he had a slot open for an 11-F Intel NCO on one of their Recon Teams, so I became a member of A Co, 75th Rangers.
After a short tour there, I was transferred to Ft Wainwright, Alaska to become part of the Army’s northern-most Airborne unit, C Co, 6/9th Inf., 171st Inf. Bde, where I finally ended my first enlistment.
I returned home as a civilian, but after about 18 months, I reenlisted for the Army’s Warrant Officer Flight School. I graduated from Ft Rucker, AL in Apr, 1975, and was assigned to C Co, 101st Aviation Bn (Black Widows) at Ft Campbell, KY as a UH-1H pilot. I spent 3 years there, and ended my active duty assignment in 1978.
I again returned home, but after a VERY short time, I joined the Army Reserve at Los Alamitos, CA as part of the 336th Aviation Co, again flying UH-1Hs. I stayed with this unit (which transformed itself into the 1st Bn, 214th Aviation Rgt over time) until 1995 when it was disbanded by the Army Reserve.
I transferred to the 304th Material Maintenance Management Command as a 920B, Supply Branch Warrant Officer, overseeing young enlisted computer operators. I stayed there for about 18 months, but the idea of just managing computers wasn’t for me, so I reverted to inactive status in the IRR.
However, in 2000, I received a letter saying that the Army Reserve was again forming an aviation unit close by, and were looking for pilots to become members to fly the UH-60 Blackhawk. After some convincing by my wife that I should get off my butt and go back into aviation, I called the number on the letter, did an interview with the unit’s new commander, and soon became a member of D Co, 158th Aviation Bn. (Redskins) at Victorville, CA in 2001. The unit sent me to UH-60 school in Pennsylvania in 2003, and by the end of 2004 we were deployed to Ft Hood, TX in support of Operation Noble Eagle. We ended up supporting President Bush’s Western White House at Crawford, TX, providing transportation to the White House security staff for almost a year.
We did such a good job that we were rewarded with an immediate follow-on tour to Iraq for another year. That meant a two year tour without a break, which we completed in 2006. After a two year break, we again packed our bags and returned to the Middle East, this time assigned to Kuwait for a year. During the assignment there, we were also again deployed to Iraq to provide support for a time. Over time, the unit was re-designated twice, first to A Company, 7-158th Aviation Rgt. (Ghost Riders), and then into A Company, 2-238th Aviation Rgt. (Gladiators).
I stayed with the unit until I retired in December, 2011, after almost 41 years.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
During 2005, I was deployed to Iraq, where we were first assigned to the 1st Cav Div at Taji Airfield, a few miles north of Baghdad. The 1st Cav was preparing to return back home, but spent time teaching us the lessons they had learned during their tour, including aerial maneuvering, communications, navigation, night operations, and many other lessons that we would put into use later.
When the incoming unit arrived at Taji, we were sent farther north to Qayyarah Airfield (known to us as Q-West, or Kee-West). From there, we conducted troop transport , cargo resupply, casualty evacuation, reconnaissance and VIP support all over Iraq. Photo is of my crew.
My most memorable flight was one in which my aircraft was hit by several rounds of ground fire. We were on a dedicated photo recon flight that required flying at a steady altitude, course, and airspeed for several passes over the city of Mosul, recording images of changes in the target locations and to detect movement of suspects. We were such an easy target for someone, that eventually they were able to hit us with small arms. With no injuries on our aircraft, and no significant damage, we returned to our air operations area for repairs.
Other aircraft damage came from impacting the large birds in Iraq. They cracked our windshields, got caught under windshield wiper blades, and impacted against gun-mounts, leaving the gunners with feathers and remains.
We participated in operations against the homes of suspected insurgents during night raids, carried relief supplies to combat outposts on the Syrian border, trained the Iraqi Army to operate with aviation, flew various news reporters to field locations, and most importantly, flew hundreds of soldiers leaving Iraq for R&R leaves, or at the completion of their tours to their connecting flights back home. By keeping them off the roads, we helped keep them alive. This was probably our most significant contribution.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I have fond memories of every location. Friends during training, combat brothers overseas, amazing soldiers in my Active and Reserve time.
The most memorable non-combat period was during my Reserve duty at Los Alamitos, CA flying UH-1Hs in the 336th Aviation Co, and later with the 1-214th Aviation Bn. The group of pilots and crewmen was amazing. We were mainly a collection of Vietnam combat vets who were happy to train us newbie’s. We were a tight group, without the Better-Than-You egos that would surface in some of my later units. Even though we didn’t see combat together, this group really formed some of my most pleasant flying experiences.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
My most memorable time would be a toss-up between the feeling of standing in my first formation at Reception Station, Ft Ord, CA, the initial smell of Kuwait as I stepped off the plane during my first combat tour, or the very last day of my military service, with the bitter-sweet knowledge that I would never again be putting on my uniform or flight gear, and actively contributing to the defense of my country.
Every significant time has its memories. All are important, and can be recalled as if they were yesterday. They never go away. And because of this, its important that we all record and document our experiences, so that other can share our feelings, our history and our knowledge.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
The first most meaningful award for me was the Expert Infantry Badge I received during my tour at Ft Wainwright, AK in 1972. To me, it meant that I had met the highest requirements of an Infantry soldier, where only 3 out of 100 who were tested succeeded. It came to mean more than even the Combat Action Badge I would be awarded during my tour to Kuwait and Iraq in 2009.
My other significant achievement was my initial Army Aviator Badge. I worked and studied the hardest I have ever done for it, put up with the longest period of grief, and felt the highest pride of my military career when I crossed the stage to receive my wings. I was no longer a ground-pounder, no longer a student, but now I was an Aviator. I had achieved my childhood goal of being a pilot. Not a jet pilot, but a helicopter pilot. In many ways, I felt like I was a better kind of pilot, closer to the ground troops, and able to be there to help them, instead of in a cockpit, flying at Mach 2 at 20,000 feet.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
The person who had the biggest impact on my service was my dad. Even though his service was in the Navy during WW II, his influence, support and example made me a better service member.
He never really expressed how he felt about me, or my being in the Army until many years later in his life, just seeing the expression on his face when he saw me in uniform was all I needed to know.
I enlisted, trained and performed to be a worthy son in his eyes, and to live up to the example he set for me growing up.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
During my Reserve duty, I held several jobs including manufacturing and purchasing manager, owner of a video production and graphics design business, managed a tire store, and worked as a plastics welder for a short time.
Today, I’m a Full-Time Student, utilizing my Post-911 GI Bill benefits, and completing a Business Degree. In addition, I’m an artist and owner of Duwayne Williams Fine Arts (http://duwayne-williams.artistwebsites.com) selling my paintings online, as well as establishing a telecommunications business through ACN. This photo is painting I did of my dad’s destroyer in WWII, the USS Ericsson (DD-440) on which he was a Gunner’s Mate.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
Military service gave me a very real appreciation for the value of service to others. I’ve found that those who devote their lives to benefiting others more than themselves are more influential, memorable and happy.
I was the happiest when I knew that my service to my country was beneficial, and that I was able to impact positively on those around me.
Today, I’m trying to translate that same effect of serving others into a new way of post-retirement life. Not sure just where it will lead me, but I have my recon ears on.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE ARMY?
My advice for those still serving is to improve your surroundings, mentor your juniors, help your seniors when possible, and know that what you do is the most honorable and valuable thing you may ever do in your life. Value your experience, take as many pictures as you can, document your adventures, and preserve your memories.
Join “Together We Served”.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
I was invited to join TWS by a fellow Army Reservist LTC (Ret) Robert Pulley. Through him, I have been able to help many others join and share their history. I have been able to connect with several people I knew from units I was in during my career, as well as contacting new friends.
This is the only internet site I have found with an ability to visually display our history, connect us with others, and share our stories. I’m very thankful that Robert Pulley told me about this, and I hope the word gets out to every veteran.
I’m collecting as much history of my father’s US Navy service as I can so I can share it with future generations as well.