Sergeant major reflects on past 27 years
| | January 14, 2004
U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES PACIFIC CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii --
There is no missing him as a Marine, whether it’s in uniform or not. Not that the hair cut alone is a dead give away, but it combined with a bulldog physique and a intense stride immediately gives away the sergeant major of Headquarters and Service Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific.
The Marine Corps is etched on each line of Sgt. Major Juan D. Williams’ seasoned face and in every fragment of his heart, which is why he enlisted for the eighth time Jan. 14.
“He is dedicated to ‘his Marines,’” said Col. William S. Febuary, commanding officer of HQSVBN, MARFORPAC. “His Marines” being every rank from the youngest private to the general.
Look around his office and you’ll see walls, which holds 27 years of well-earned memories. Pictures, letters of achievement, and memorabilia from his days as drill instructor line the walls of his large office, while notebooks of knowledge, drill manuals and other memories line his bookshelves, but the Marine Corps wasn’t always Williams first choice.
As a young 19-year-old from Brooklyn he first set his eyes on the Army, but was soon shown the light as he sat on the recruiter’s steps. The light of the Corps that is, which was held by recruiter Staff Sgt. Artis Washington.
“I didn’t even know he was a Marine, cause I didn’t know the uniform. I thought Marines just wore green,” Williams said.
The recruiter spent a just few seconds telling Williams about the Marine Corps and he was sold.
“He told me, ‘if you want to see the world, fight for freedom and be given direction, then the Marine Corps is the place for you,’” Williams said remembering that, that was what he was looking for in the Army. The recruiter also told Williams not to come back from boot camp before graduating. That was a piece of advice Williams lived up to.
The recruiter wasn’t kidding when he said, ‘you will see the world.’
Since graduating from Military Police School in Fort McClellan, Alabama, Williams worked with over 20 different units serving in twice as many billets all over the world.
It was at the third base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Williams reenlisted the first time, but it wasn’t an immediate decision. In fact, it was a withheld letter that made his decision for him.
“I was contemplating joining the police force instead of reenlisting, but I didn’t receive a reply to my inquiries,” Williams said. “My first sergeant, 1ST Sgt. Jack Clagg, gave me the letter after I had raised my hand (and sworn in).”
Although Williams had doubts about reenlisting the first time, there are no doubts in many Marines’ minds as to why he is still in.
“He is a motivator. He backs up his Marines for anything. He always insures that they are ready to go,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Iosefa Elisara, the MARFORPAC career retention specialist non-commissioned officer in charge.
“He gets a charge out of seeing Marines successful at what they do. That’s what keeps him going,” Febuary said. “He is the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, if that’s what he thought would help you out. He does whatever he can to make Marines better whether that is some days pumping you up or some days kicking your butt.”
The 47-year-old sergeant major’s drive doesn’t stop with the Marines he comes into contact with – it hits home as well.
Williams and his wife have been married for 24 years. It was the Corps that brought them together.
“My wife (a native of Seoul, Republic of Korea) comes from a military background. Her father was in the Korean Marine Corps and her brother was in the Korean Army,” Williams said. “She has always supported me throughout my career… always by my side, ready to move where the Marine Corps sent me.”
“His drive carries over at home,” Febuary said. “If your happy at work, then you’ll be happy at home.”
“My daughter, graduated from the police academy on (Jan. 9) and her instructor told me, that she really has drive and motivation,” said Williams, adding that his son, who attending college, feels like he has been in the Marine Corps his whole life.
“If I could go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” Williams said. “My only goal when I joined was to become a sergeant. I wanted to be an NCO. I never thought I would be a sergeant major… I never dreamed that far. I always thought I had something to teach and contribute.”
Teach he did, according to a letter of Navy Commendation from Commandant of the Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak commending Williams for his efforts in putting together the sergeants course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Williams taught 1200 NCOs from 1992 to 1994.
Williams’ ability to teach didn’t stop there it continues today.
“He knows what makes the individual Marine tick. He looks at each Marine and asks, ‘How can I make this person better; their living quarters better?’” said Febuary. “He sets an example others want to follow, emulate.”
The seasoned Marine stands an inch shy of 6 feet and weighs 204 pounds, and a glance in his direction tells you that he carries a rigorous work out schedule. Although Sundays are set-aside for a day of rest, every other day of the week he is at the gym by 5 a.m. to work out. “Once I am done there, I go PT (Physically trains) by running at least three miles,” Williams said.
When asked whether he works out during lunch Williams said, “No, lunch is reserved to get my thoughts together, and I normally don’t leave here until after (7 p.m.), because I have to get my thoughts together for the next day.”
As Williams gathers his thoughts a part of him reflects over his thoughts in the Corps.
“I love Marines, they are always going to be a part of my life. I have had the distinct pleasure of working for and with outstanding master gunnery sergeants and sergeants major, and I have been able to travel around the world,” Williams said. “I have met many role models and a band of brothers that no matter when, no matter where – will take care of me, and I would do the same.”