MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
For the first time in his 35 year Marine Corps career, Maj. Gen. Willie J. Williams, commanding general, Marine Corps Logistics Command, had the opportunity to serve close to home for four years.
The Moundville, Al., native, who in reality, had all the odds stacked against him growing up in the segregated South, leaves ‘home’ for what will be his last tour of duty in the Marine Corps. Williams graduated from Moundville High School in 1970 and Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 1974.
Williams assumed command of LOGCOM on June 17, 2005. “To be perfectly honest, I have mixed emotions about leaving here and it is because of what we have done and what we are doing to support the warfighter. With all the equipment, the reset and retrograde efforts, and all we have done to reorganize the command, to get it positioned and prepared to do all those things, makes leaving bittersweet,” he said.
Williams said he is excited about his new opportunity at Headquarters Marine Corps, but leaving brings quite a bit of sadness, both personally and professionally. He said it felt good to be close to home for the first time since he joined the Marine Corps.
“I am excited about going to do new things and taking on new responsibilities and challenges, but on the other hand, I am a little sad to be leaving. I have also grown to love Albany and its people, the command and we have become like a family,” Williams said.
He said that upon his arrival, he did not have a good sense for where he thought the command should go, what it should be doing or what should be the trademark of the command. “I’m a firm believer that you should always endeavor to leave a venue better than it was when you arrived.”
“I didn’t understand when I looked at the entire spectrum of Marine Corps warfighting, how LOGCOM fit into that overall construct. It took me about seven or eight months to develop what I consider to be our vision and strategy for going forward and the goals for doing so,” he said.
Williams said they came together as a command and began their strategic planning. It was Spring 2006 when he felt comfortable that he and his staff finally had a good idea and view of what they wanted to do and how the command would go forward.
“Some of it (planning) certainly came out of the war and that caused us to do things differently. Then, we began to shape the vision and focus and the task of looking at the command and how it was structured. We looked at how we would resource or realign and the goal was to take that construct and align all our processes, functions and resources with that goal and vision,” Williams said.
He said that system now has a synergy that makes operations more effective. “We started working toward more integrated solutions for the warfighter and that really began to propel us to move outside of the fence line of Albany, Ga., which took us everywhere there were Marines. LOGCOM is there to provide support for Marines everywhere. The Marines may be in forward locations, but they are connected to a system back here,” he said.
“I know that I can say without question that over the last four years something special has occurred at LOGCOM. The staff has pulled together for a common purpose. They have responded to the call for change and have supported the warfighter during the time of their greatest need. This would not have been possible without the leadership and vision of General Williams,” said Michael Madden, executive deputy, LOGCOM.
Williams attributes all of the accomplishments in LOGCOM to the staff and the workforce who made all the things they do possible. “I’m the one who has been blessed to have the workforce I have had and to have a community that is so willing to engage into meaningful partnerships such as we have with Albany Technical College and Albany State University. I have to credit the presidents of these institutions with having the vision for their organizations as well and to be able to do things that are different,” he said.
Williams further explained that it took everyone saying “we wanted to do things different” for him to have had a successful tour here.
“I was blessed to be assigned here -- a place where we can work out our purpose for being. Once that purpose is determined, from the professional and command side, there is also the personal side of things. I was just fortunate to have people around me who were willing to get in there and work. All the credit goes to God and what He has given me, including the people I work for and with,” he said.
Williams added, “General Kessler, my replacement, and I have had a number of conversations and will have more as we go forward. I intend to get him out to meet the community and some of the leaders before I leave. I view him as being cut from a similar mold, even though we come from different backgrounds. Both Jim and his wife, Debbie, are very engaging people and they know we are a family here.”
“My advice to him will be the same as I give to most people. It is not about him as an individua, therefore the things he does should not be about things from a personal nature, but more for the greater good of the organization, the Marine Corps, the community and mankind at large. You want to do whatever you can for the greater good. If you focus on something other than self and if you are willing to listen, then you can have similar impacts,” Williams said.
Williams said it has been a tremendous journey over the past 35 years for him and his wife of nearly 37 years, Bobbie.
He said she has always been excited about moving and experiencing new things. However, she has mixed emotions about this move as well.
“Bobbie has always been excited about moving, but this time, it is getting her down a little bit because she has grown to love the area and has made great friends. She has been very involved in the community with Girls Inc., the symphony and the American Cancer Society,” Williams said.
As Maj. Gen. Williams prepares for his upcoming change of command, he wanted to share a few words with everyone reading this. “I want to say thanks for all that you have done in support of the command, the Marine Corps and to me and my wife personally. We feel that this has truly been a fantastic assignment and more so because of the people. A commonly used phrase, but one that truly is ‘spot on’ with Albany, is that it is the people here that has made this assignment one of the best I have had.”
Carla Johnson, director, Supply Management Operations Office, Supply Management Center, LOGCOM, said, “I have been honored to have an opportunity to work under the leadership of Major General Williams. He provided his vision and in my experience, gave us the latitude to execute. I am proud to have had an opportunity to work on a number of initiatives that contributed to making LOGCOM an operational logistics solutions provider, whether it was fielded weapon systems or support services.”
Williams added, “As a servant leader, I am here to serve the people, and I tried to do my best to ensure the command was structured, positioned and had the environment and resources to go forth and do those things we asked them to do. I tried to uphold my end of the bargain and the staff certainly did as well.”
“As with all great leaders, Major General Williams did something very important when he came to Albany. He listened, observed and he created an environment for the positive change that we are realizing today. He engaged the workforce at all levels through a number of venues by keeping them informed, and encouraging active participation in the change process. I believe it was key in enabling us arrive at the place we are today on our journey,” Johnson said.
When asked about regrets, his reply was the staff will say that they could never do the work fast enough or get equipment to the warfighter fast enough or enough of it.
“When I look back over my tour here and consider any regrets, I wish that I could have touched more people in more meaningful ways. There are just so many hours in a day and days in a week, but you try to take advantage of each and every opportunity to influence others. When I look back, I try to find those opportunities I missed along the way,” Williams said.
Williams is headed for the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. This will be his last stop before retiring back home in Alabama. Though he doesn’t consider himself a role model as others do, he says that he leaves that opinion to others around him.
“If what people see in you is what they inspire to be, then I leave that for them to say. I look at every opportunity and ask what my purpose is. My life is about making a difference, and I hope I have done that,” he said.
“An easy way to sum up Major General Williams’s tour: ‘right general, right vision, right time and right place,’” said Col. Ben Braden, chief of staff, LOGCOM. “He set a direction for this command with new focus and effort, making LOGCOM a relevant ‘force multiplier’ for the future of our Corps."