Enoch Williams of Jackson County’s Springfield Community served a distinguished 30-year career in the US Army. Drafted in 1961, he decided early on to stay in the military. He managed to make it through the Berlin airlift crisis, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and several other conflicts without ever being sent to the battlegrounds. In fact, his last assignment in 1990-91 was packing the troops off to Desert Storm, not attending it. However, through all those conflicts, Williams was there supporting the troops with research and development to keep them supplied and organized for warfare.
Williams tried to get sent to Vietnam in 1964 “but they refused,” he explained at the Jackson County TIMES last Thursday. “I wanted to get off of alert status in which I was confined to the base in Hawaii,” he said, “but they needed my MOS (Military Occupational Status) where I was and they turned me down.” In 1969, Enoch got his orders and was headed to Vietnam but at the very same time, President Nixon had ordered a cutback in troops and his free trip to Southeast Asia was cancelled.
Williams was good Army material and the officers knew it, making him a Staff Sergeant in 1967. He had decided to stay in the Army six months before his two-year draft term ended. “The retirement and other benefits offered by the federal government were pretty good,” Williams explained. “My only other skills were bus driving and farming.” Enoch was born on August 30, 1937 to farmers Benjamin and Sylvia Williams in the Springfield Community north of Marianna off State Road 73. He graduated high school at Jackson County Training School in 1957, in the first class to graduate at the buildings and campus now known as Marianna Middle School. He started driving a bus for the District when he was still a senior. He married his high school sweetheart Tommie Harrington in 1965; they will celebrate their 51st Anniversary on Nov. 26. She stuck with him throughout his military career, although it meant they had to move every two or three years.
The Army work Williams is most proud of involves his research and development assignments, and his work with making sure Army Reserve equipment was available in case of combat immediacy. In 1971-74, while assigned in Japan as a quartermaster research analyst, his team’s mission was to develop a plastic-sealed meal for soldiers to replace the canned C-Rations. “We had those meals for the astronauts in space in those days, but they didn’t have a long shelf life. We needed to come up with a MRE (meal ready to eat) that would last a long time and taste good.” The Army still uses the method they developed then as well as the “honeycombed cardboard air-drop pallet that absorbs the shock when cargo is dropped from the air so it doesn’t bounce,” as the Sgt. Major describes it.
In 1980-82, Williams was assigned to the 40th Ordnance Group in Jackson, Mississippi. “Our primary mission,” he explained, “was to get the equipment used by Army Reserve units up to combat-ready status.” For his work as senior logistics NCO, Williams was presented a special award by Sen. John Stennis, then the Chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee. It states, “MSG Enoch Williams Meritorious Service August 1980 to October 1982.” (See illustration.) The flame-shaped award is made of wood.
Williams also is very proud of his work with the men of the US military, especially those who served under his supervision. “I treated them the way I would like them to treat me,” he explained. “In my 28 years as a supervisor, I only had to do two Articles 15s and only one courts martial.” Article 15s allow commanders to carry out discretional punishments without judicial proceedings.
Williams was drafted during the Cold War and as soon as he got to Fort Benning in 1961 for basic training, the Army was put on full alert because of what was happening in Berlin, Germany. “Our basic training was cut short,” Enoch explained, and we were told to get ready to fight. So I was trained in the 127th Field Artillery, 2nd Infantry Division, as an artilleryman.” In September 1962, he was transferred to the 25th Infantry Division and Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. Assuming duties as the Unit Armor in March 1963, that was the beginning of his supply sergeant career and in 1974, Williams began his battalion/brigade-level career in logistics. That culminated in July 1991 when he became the Directorate of Logistics Sergeant Major in Fort Stewart, Georgia. Enoch had been promoted to Sergeant Major on Aug. 1, 1985, he remembers without hesitation.
Williams spent 12 months in Korea as unit supply sergeant (1966-67), stationed in Muson, South Korea, “at the last base before the DMZ.” Other assignments included two three-year tours in Germany, as well as trips to Japan, Thailand and others. His awards and decorations include Good Conduct Medal 10th Award, Army Achievement Medal, Korean Expedition Medal, Army Commendation Medal 2nd Award, Meritorious Service Medal 5th Award and the Legion of Merit.
“I’d do it all again if I had the chance,” Williams said of his Army career. “We live in the greatest country in the world and in all the 30 years, I never doubted that we would return home to Jackson County. (But if I had to live in another country—I’d pick Germany because of its food, its cleanliness and its people.) I’d recommend the service to all young people. I’m glad to have two nephews in the Marine Corps. I attribute my successful career to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and my wife Tommie. A military spouse is in just as bad a shape as the soldier. I don’t know how she did it but she did it!”
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