FAMU professor climbs up the ranks to colonel

The body of an American soldier is dropped inside of a home in Iraq. The floors of the home are secured with deadly bombs. The surrounding soldiers’ first instinct is to run inside before the life threatening ammunition kills him.

The captain in charge yells to them, “No!” This changes the very outcome of the situation, and saves the lives of several men on his squad.

That detrimental decision containing wisdom and defined leadership, is the type of service and experience that can be expected from Maj. Jeffery Williams, a professor of military science and battalion commander at Florida A&M University since July 29.

On Monday at 2 p.m., Williams, 39, joined by Florida A&M University president James Ammons, faculty and staff, will be sworn in his new rank as colonel in a ceremony at the Quadrangle.

Out of 430 officers and only 80 positions available, Williams said he was destined for the job.

“I choose FAMU because it was God inspired,” he said. “It is a very rewarding position. I love giving back, everyday. Being able to help someone else is very important to me.”

Quillita Rayford, 25, a junior nursing student, and member of ROTC from Memphis, Tenn., said Williams has been giving to his students.

“He cares about his students. He stands behind you 100 percent in your endeavors,” Rayford said. “He puts us in a situation to use our own brain because if we go to war we need to possess those qualities.”

Born into a welfare-stricken, single-parent household in Houston with an older sister, Williams said life was hard. After his father, Franklin Williams died when Williams was only three years old, Williams watched his mother, Irma Williams, take on the struggles of poverty and maintain her dignity while doing so.

“My mom was and is still, to me, an epic of working hard,” he said. Keeping food on our table and clothing on our back was her necessity. If you want to be successful, you have to work hard and do it the right way.”

And through his childhood, Williams took the negative environment and turned it into a positive result. With an extreme desire to take care of his mother and prevent his future from looking like his past, he lit the torch of excellence and proceeded down the pathway of the American dream – college.

After graduating from college, Williams became a personnel management specialist in the army, where he learned the basic skills needed to achieve monumental goals within his career.

“The military had been teaching service to us for years but you never understand until you go into service,” he said.

In 2003, Williams was sent to Iraq to serve for a year and he said he has never been the same.

“It was a strong desire to serve our country, our world,” he said. “It changed my life for the better – it was a natural high.”

Williams said he saw some terrible things and lost some close friends during his time overseas, but is thankful for the opportunity.

“I had to make some tough decisions – life or death,” he said as he reminisced about the heartfelt events. “Some of the pictures just sit with me, maybe even forever. But they all hold a valuable place in my progression.”

He described his experience in Iraq as a privileged encounter. But Williams also learned the real definition of poverty, which allowed him to place his own on the back burner.

“We are in America; we do not know what true poverty is,” he said. “No matter what we go through or what the politicians and the media might say, we go through light drizzles compared to the hurricanes over there.”

Courtney Goner, 19, a freshman ROTC criminal justice student from St. Petersburg, said she values Williams’ foreign experience.

“He’s seen a lot of thing and he knows what we need to get the job done if we go overseas – he’s been there.”

But after 22 years of service and annual evaluations in front of a thorough promotions board, all of his work paid off.

“It has definitely been a labor of love,” said Williams with a tone of relief. “I am extremely excited. It is nice to be recognized and rewarded for selfless service.”

Williams explained the duties of becoming colonel, along with how his family, his wife, Melissa Williams and their three boys, Jeffery, 14, Adam, 8, and Benjamin, 7, have been a huge influence on his career.

“This means there is more work to do. It means a new challenge – that I welcome,” he said. “My family and I are thankful for the opportunity and we look forward to what the future holds. Without them much of my accomplishments would have not been possible. I’m so thankful.”