story by Cpl. Charlotte Fitzgerald
FORT MCCOY, Wis. – To say his road to success has been tough, would almost be an understatement. Nevertheless, this Westville, N.J., native has managed to remain in high spirits as he continues to compete in the 2013 Army Reserve Best Warrior.
Spc. Russell Williams, a member of the 108th Training Command based out of Blackwood, N.J., is the oldest competitor in this level of the Army Reserve Best Warrior Competition. He is in the same category as Soldiers half his age, yet he shows the same competitive spirit they do and says he has a few reasons for being here.
“I re-enlisted a year ago, February,” Williams said. “My intention is to go to drill sergeant school and to earn an Airborne slot.”
The 42 year old said he served previously for four years, but had to take a 15 year break in service because his dad became ill and he needed to take care of him. He has now re-enlisted to complete the goals he had then.
After arriving at the 108th, Williams said they asked him if he would like to compete in their Best Warrior competition and he jumped at the chance.
“I saw it as an opportunity to remember stuff from before, but also as a way to learn some of the newer things,” he said.
At one point during the 108th’s competition, Williams said he surprised his scorer by using an older method of applying a splint during a Combat Life Saver scenario.
“I applied a tourniquet to the arm, and then realized there was also a leg fracture,” Williams said. “I looked at this new foam splint I guess the Army has now, threw it over my shoulder because I had no idea what it was and went to retrieve two sticks and made the splint. I looked at her surprised face and pointed out that I had still properly splinted the fracture.”
While he has been competing in these competitions, however, Williams has had to face more than the struggles of age. He was recently laid off of his civilian job of heating and air conditioning and has become a stay at home dad for his two daughters. Williams has also faced yet another set of upheavals.
“I also have extra motive for competing,” Williams said. “My nephew was a sergeant 1st class on active duty and he was killed in a motorcycle accident. My mother also recently passed away and we buried her with my father.”
Williams said he also lost another close friend right before coming to Wisconsin. He keeps a ring on his dog tags and a service coin from his friend’s service in his pocket to remember those that he has lost.
Despite all of the sadness and hardships, Williams remains strong and continues to push himself as he moves forward and continues to compete for Best Warrior.
“Being older than the other competitors, they have a physical advantage because their bodies recover quicker, but I have the knowledge and experience they don’t have,” he said. “Because of that knowledge and experience, I will approach a situation a little more relaxed and that helps give you an advantage.”
Williams said that being his age and making it to this level of the competition is pretty good. He is proud of how well everyone works with each other and said there are a lot of good guys competing.
“When I look back and retire, I want to be able to say that I did some good things here and I accomplished the goals I set out to,” he said.
Williams will begin drill sergeant school when he finishes the competitions and said he was recently called back to his job as well.
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