Sergeant in U.S. Army Europe-Led Aviation Task Force Chooses Soldier's Life over Law Career
January 24, 2008
CAMP TAJI, Iraq (Jan. 24, 2008) -- Sgt. David Williams says he joined the Army more than four and a half years ago because he owed a lot of money.
Williams had racked up more than $100,000 in debt on student loans.
"After I graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in political science, I went to the University of Southern California School of Law and earned a Juris Doctorate," said Williams, a production control manager for unmanned aerial vehicles in Company G, Task Force XII, the aviation task force led by U.S. Army Europe's 12th Combat Aviation Brigade. "My friends from college went on to become lawyers, and I have cousins who followed in my footsteps to law school, who are lawyers."
Williams said he passed the California bar exam, and while his family felt he should practice law, the Army offered something law firms in his area could not.
"I lived near a naval base, and I saw all of these signs that said the military would pay up to $65,000 of your college loans," he said. "So I talked to a recruiter, and he told me that the Army could pay that amount of money and could also send me to Europe."
The prospect of Europe played a vital role of his decision, he said.
"I spent my junior year of college in Toledo, Spain, and I just fell in love with Europe," said Williams. "It gave me a taste for foreign cultures and made me appreciate how much there is outside of the U.S."
The guarantee to help pay his student loans and the opportunity to return to Europe, he said, would not have been available if he had decided to join the Army as a commissioned officer.
"It's not a big deal to me, because I love my job," the sergeant said. "I probably get asked once a week why I'm enlisted if I have a law degree."
"I've known (Williams) for about a month and a half, and I was kind of shocked when I found out about his college background," said Sgt. Aaron Mertens, lead UAV maintainer for Company B, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. "I was shocked, because I don't think I would have chosen to enlist in the military with that kind of a degree."
In fact, Williams says the Army has provided him with such wonderful experiences and opportunities to meet amazing people, that he has changed his goals in life.
"Growing up, I thought (being a lawyer) would be the greatest thing, and I didn't think that much about the Army," he said. "Now I think the opposite. I think that (practicing) law isn't that great, and the Army turned out to be a lot more than ever I expected it to be."
When he returns to home base in Germany, Williams says he plans to apply for a position in Army Special Forces or as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot.
Williams' company commander is confident that the sergeant can achieve any goal he chooses.
"(Williams) is a hard worker who learns quickly, and he's a model Soldier because of his excellent physical fitness," said Capt. Shirwen Separa. "I could definitely see him becoming a company commander or a first sergeant one day; it just depends on what route he chooses to take."
Now completing his second combat tour, Williams says he hopes to be meeting the challenges the Army offers for a long time to come.
"Most of my classmates have jobs that pay well and they get to go home at the end of the day," he said.
"If I could live more than one life, then that choice would be great. But I've got to be Special Forces, a pilot or something cool, because I just like that adrenaline rush. I want to be at the tip of the spear and have a long and distinguished Army career."
"It's great that he's going after what he loves to do, instead of what everybody expects him to do," said Mertens.