Story by SSgt Kayla White on 09/12/2019Many books are written which detail the trials and victories that forge a military leader's career path. Biographies and autobiographies alike provide a retrospective look at lessons learned, key takeaways and the memorable moments that shaped them as they stepped into each successive role and faced any number of challenges. To capture these memorable periods while they are in progress is less common.
At his home station of Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri,1st Lt. Andrew Williams serves as the officer in charge of logistics and resources assigned to the 509th Security Forces Squadron. For the last two years, it has been his responsibility to oversee the SF armory, the combat arms program, as well as the supply and mobility sections.
"Every security forces member coming on or off duty touches that armory," he said. "And everybody that deploys or needs to maintain their weapon qualifications process through the combat arms program."
Williams, who graduated from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, with a degree in logistics and intermodal transportation, said he aimed to become an SF officer because of the leadership opportunities it would afford him.
"What I love about security forces is the large ratio of enlisted Airmen to each officer," said Williams.
He described his first day on the job as nothing short of overwhelming.
"I walked into a flight of 100 people and had to not only figure out how to do my job, but how to manage all of those people as well," said Williams.
Williams said that he also recognized it as an opportunity for growth.
"One of the great things about this career field is that it teaches you to sink or swim and I've enjoyed every minute of it," said Williams.
When his leadership approached him with a chance to expand his depth, he dove once more.
Williams became the security officer in charge of the Bomber Task Force Europe security element at Royal Air Force Fairford, England.
This BTF is made up of Airmen, three B-2 Spirits and key support equipment from Whiteman AFB that have deployed to the European command to conduct theater integration and flying operations. The deployment of strategic bombers helps exercise RAF Fairford as a forward operating location for bombers. Through joint and allied training, these Airmen work to improve bomber interoperability, increase readiness levels and strengthen the strategic relationships that help the U.S. confront a broad range of global challenges.
As the security OIC of the BTF mission, Williams oversees SF defenders from five separate bases and missions: Whiteman AFB, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, Dyess AFB, Texas, as well as Ramstein and Spangdahlem Air Bases in Germany.
Williams said that only six of the defenders at RAF Fairford have prior experience working with the B-2. He and his Whiteman defenders ensured everyone else understood the unique nuances of securing the stealth bomber.
"I think it showcases the interoperability of being a defender," he said. "It's been incredible to see everyone adapt and come together here."
While overseeing security for a BTF deployment in and of itself is a proper challenge, Williams and his team have overcome additional obstacles since arriving in the European theater.
"It's been hectic," he said. "Fairford has no established U.S. security forces presence. We had to build a squadron from the ground up before we could start operating."
They worked to establish local policy and procedures for everything from how they ran the armory to how they would maintain an SF presence on the RAF Fairford flight line. They created rosters and detailed binders for each location where SF Airmen would post security.
"This has allowed me the opportunity to see what it takes to establish and run a unit in its infancy," said Williams.
The framework they have created will be used not only during BTF deployments, but by all U.S. forces that rotate through RAF Fairford.
Williams said he takes pride in the fact that he could return to Fairford in 10 years' time to see his legacy still in operation.
Alongside him the whole way has been Master Sgt. Lawrence Price, assigned to the 7th Security Forces Squadron out of Dyess AFB.
Price, who has served as the security forces superintendent of the BTF and Williams' key enlisted advisor, said he has done extremely well.
"By how he carries himself, I wouldn't say that this was his first BTF," said Price.
An important part of NCO responsibility is to help guide junior officers as they make their way through new experiences. Price brought his past experience both as a defender and a NCO to this BTF deployment.
"In a new officer's command, the biggest challenge is making a decision, but he has made the call every time," he said.
Though his time at RAF Fairford has been challenging and has required him to step up in new ways, Williams has flourished.
Williams said that it has been an incredible learning experience for him that would set him up for success in his future roles.
"This experience will be huge going forward," he said. "I have gotten to make command-level decisions here on a smaller scale. When this BTF is over, when I move on from Whiteman, I will always be able to keep what I have learned and apply that knowledge to whatever I face next."