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NEWS | Feb. 29, 2024

Army Reserve Soldier reflects on mentorship during Black History Month

By Sgt. Salvatore Ottaviano 99th Readiness Division

He’s on the field, on the court, and out on the water angling for some bass – he enjoys it all, but even more so because fellow troops in his unit are enjoying it with him.

During Black History Month, Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Williams, an Active Guard Reserve Soldier, paused to look at his accomplishments.

“I’m the first one in my household to be in the military,” said Williams, who works as G3 Operations NCO for the U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Readiness Division. “I was the first one to graduate high school and graduate college.”

“African Americans have made great strides in the military compared to back in the day…when they were suppressed from high-level positions,” he said.

At the young age of 18, Williams began his Army career by joining the National Guard.

“What inspired me to join the military was my peers,” Williams said. “It was a source of income, I was young and dumb, at that time it was perfect for me,” he laughed, explaining that his first job was M1 Armor Crewman as a Tanker.

“I didn’t have a mentor. I was kind of lost in the sauce trying to find myself,” he said, explaining that he just thought to plow through his duties each day. “Just go out and work and do things to the best of my ability.”

After some deployment experience and working his way up to being an NCO, he realized he could become a mentor as part of his leadership.

“I could be more of an influence…to turn around and give it back, not just sit on the knowledge. When you notice good leadership, you want to emulate that,” he explained.

“At the end of the day, if you’re not knowing what you want to do, you can end up doing a lot of unnecessary stuff that you don’t have to,” he said. “As a mentor, you can help a young Soldier not have to waste their time and energy - you can trim the fat off the meat so you can reach your goal.”

“Everybody’s looking for instant results, and if they don’t see it, they don’t want to deal with it. [Young Soldiers I’ve mentored] wonder, ‘why are they telling me this’ and later on they realize why,” said Williams, citing several times when someone he mentored took the time to tell him of the impact of his guidance and positive influence.

“A couple years later, a Soldier calls up - ‘what you did for me then, it helped me, I’m doing great,’ …it makes you really feel good (to get) a thank you,” said Williams. “You’re just trying to be a good leader and you get an unexpected thanks.”

Williams eventually switched from the National Guard to the Army Reserve. Afterward, he deployed in 2006 with the 282nd Quartermaster Company, under the 15th Sustainment Brigade, assigned to Camp Stryker in Iraq. While in the combat zone, Williams was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Returning from deployment, he was stationed in Mississippi and mentored troops about to deploy. He also learned of interesting opportunities in the military that he didn’t know about. He became a civilian contractor for Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), the Army's primary contractor for logistical support in Iraq.

He returned back to uniformed duty on Active Duty Operational Support (ADOS) orders at Camp Chevy, then became a platoon sergeant for the Warrior Transition Unit program at Fort Benning.

“There are a lot of Soldiers in need, they’re trying to get medical care in their last days in the military, getting ‘med-boarded’ out. There are also a lot of different situations,” he said. “It just felt good to help accommodate them in what they needed.”

Williams then joined the AGR program and began working in Operations for the 99th RD.

“I learned training, planning, logistics…it was a lot of info, a handful; it was like drinking from a firehose,” he said. With the 99th RD, he also supports and participates in several morale activities, especially his favorite.

“I just love fishing. It reminds me of my grandad, it’s very relaxing…I miss my man,” he said, “I went fishing yesterday.”

His love for fishing grew even stronger while working in the WTU program with its Warrior Weekend in Texas, an annual tradition which has a lot of fishing on Labor Day weekend.

“I still go every year, the coordinator allows me to go,” he said, adding that he still has good conversations with WTU Soldiers on the side and makes himself available for providing some advice when someone needs it.

Williams’ mother passed away in 2016, as well as his father only one year later. He remembers his mother Evelyn as an inspiration.

“My mother was proud of me, she told me to keep it going,” said Williams, age 45, with a growing appreciation for the value of doing the best you can in life as well as rising to success.

“I look up to my uncle, Harrison Williams Sr., he’s well-grounded…he’s my oldest uncle and he checks on me…he kind of fills the ‘father’ role,” he said.

Williams appreciates how rich and plentiful the diversity is while stationed in New Jersey as it makes for a special environment for him.

“There’s so much ethnic diversity - that’s one of the things I like about the 99th RD,” he said. “In the south, it’s usually black or white, and when we have a variety of different cultures it’s great. For us in the 99th, we all come together for the same goal…we gel…I’ve learned a lot in all the years being with different races.”

His plan is to retire in about four years, followed by either a government position or returning to contracting overseas.

Always the mentor, Williams offered some advice for young Soldiers just joining the service.

“Always have a plan. Always put money aside for a rainy day and surround yourself with people who are just as humble as you are. Make sure that you’re around good people,” he said.