About a year ago, then Chief Warrant Officer 3 Verona Williams entertained thoughts of hanging up her combat boots for good.
“I did have aspirations for retiring and thought it was time to start another career,” the senior food service course instructor said.
But something kept tugging at Williams’ consciousness.
“What happened was that the Army still needed Soldiers,” she said. “I felt I had a responsibility to continue to give back … I could think of myself, but I also have to think of those Soldiers.”
So Williams put Soldiers first and continued to pursue her passion for teaching at the Army Center for Excellence, Subsistence.
That was probably one of the most critical career decisions she ever made. Not only did she earn an unanticipated promotion to chief warrant officer 4 but more importantly, she was rewarded for her passion, earning the Training and Doctrine Command’s Instructor of the Year title for 2006. She was notified of her achievement April 5.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said upon learning of her victory. “I screamed very loud and felt very proud.”
The Columbus, Ga., native competed in the Quartermaster Center and School version of the event in October and finished second in a competition that included enlisted, warrant officers and officers. That allowed her a seed in the TRADOC competition. She became the first food service Soldier to win the event and the first Quartermaster to claim the award in several years.
“We haven’t had anyone from the Quartermaster school win this in a very long time,” said Williams, “so for me to bring it back home…Wow! I can’t believe it.”
Williams, a 22-year veteran who spent nine years in the enlisted ranks,said TRADOC required the submission of a resume, a 20-minute criteria-laden video of the instructor in a classroom environment and an interview session in which the she answered specific questions. Williams felt like her responses during the interview session, especially one concerning the challenges instructors face, made all the difference in her performance.
“I said my greatest challenges were always resources,” she recalled. “We’re always very short of people due to the Global War on Terrorism, but regardless of what’s going on, it shouldn’t stop us from giving the Soldier the absolute very best we can with the available resources.”
Sgt. Maj. Jamey Ryan, directorate of training, ACES, said Williams’ achievement is commensurate to how she performs as an instructor on a daily basis.
“Chief Williams really sets the standard for what an instructor is,” he said. “The award is just a great recognition of the work’s she done. She’s built a phenomenal program here, and it’s a feather in our cap to have had someone who has excelled at that level.”
Williams will now move on to put a feather in another organization’s cap. She is due to depart Fort Lee Saturday for what will be a one-year tour in Qatar, a country in the Middle East. That assignment, she said, is simply another opportunity to impact the mission and passionately serve the needs of Soldiers.
“I’m looking forward to doing the best I can to push Soldiers toward the maximum heights they can reach,” she said. “It’s all about giving back.”
Williams will be “giving back” for at least the next two years, and at the end of that term, she will once again face the prospect of hanging up the boots.
“I love the military,” she said. “So each time I have to think about retirement, I’m torn between the two. I always think of the Soldiers and what my leaders gave me. Someone stayed in the system and gave me what I got, so I’m still, in a sense, responsible for all those Soldiers coming behind me.”