REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – In 40 years of combined military and federal service – all within Army Materiel Command – Jacqueline Williams has visited 30 countries across the globe and served in supervisory roles at several U.S. Army Security Assistance Command regional directorates.
The Detroit, Michigan native joined the Michigan Army National Guard in 1977 as a means to attend college. After completing basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Williams attended Advanced Individual Training at Fort Lee, Virginia as a supply specialist, jumpstarting her military career.
Williams’ journey to become an officer did not come without its challenges, however. In 1979 while attending officer candidate school at the Michigan Military Academy in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Williams said she experienced verbal abuse but did not let it interfere with her goal of becoming an officer.
“You can do anything you put your mind to, but you must stay focused and not get waylaid by the noise,” said Williams.
Following her commission as a second lieutenant in February 1981, Williams served in her first military assignment as executive officer for the Distribution and Transportation Division of the Materiel Management Directorate at U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) in Warren, Michigan.
During her time at TACOM, Williams leaned on the advice of her mentor Rosalind Barnes, a TACOM Branch Chief, who also knew what it was like to be a young woman in the Army. “Rosalind Barnes took me under her wing when I was a lieutenant,” said Williams. “She had served years before me and endured even worse than what I had.”
Williams served at TACOM for three years until a freak accident abruptly ended her military career and initiated her transition to federal service.
“I decided to leave the Army because I had fallen down a flight of stairs while at TACOM and was undergoing physical therapy,” said Williams. “It turned out to be the best thing because if I had moved on with a military career, I would have missed out on several opportunities, including USASAC, the best kept secret in the Army.”
During the transition, it was Barnes who helped Williams with her application for federal service.
“Her advice was always ‘learn and know your job’,” said Williams. “Rosalind would remind me that knowledge and demonstrated capability is something no one can take away from you.”
Williams took that advice to USASAC, a command she would call home for 34 years of her 40 years of service.
Williams first came to USASAC in 1989 as a supply systems analyst in the Policy and Procedure Division when the command was stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. After spending two years there, in January 1991, Williams was selected to serve on a special assignment with the United States Army Executive Agent for Asset Management in St. Louis, Missouri.
A little over a year later, in March 1992, Williams was assigned to the Joint Logistics System Center at Wright Patterson Air Force Base where she held several program manager positions in the System Development Division, Corporate Integration Directorate and System Integration Division, Materiel Management Directorate.
After a six year hiatus from USASAC, Williams returned to Fort Belvoir and served as the Country Program Manager for Egypt Aviation, Mideast Africa Directorate, from 1997 to 2001.
In 2001, she was promoted to Chief of Asia, Pacific and Americas Directorate and served in that role until 2004. In 2006 within the Asia, Pacific and Americas Directorate to the role of Deputy Director and served in that role until 2007 when she moved with USASAC to Redstone Arsenal following the base realignment and closure.
Once arriving at Redstone Arsenal, Williams took the role of Deputy Director of European Command and Africa Command Regional Operations Directorate – a role in which she held until retirement.
During her tenure at USASAC Williams took on additional assignments, to include Deputy Director for Central Command in 2014 and Deputy Director of Indo-Pacific Command and Southern Command in 2018.
Williams was led by 18 commanders and 19 colonels during her time at USASAC and at times, she was chosen to temporarily replace colonels when they moved on to their next assignments.
“When the USASAC command team needed someone to fill critical leadership positions, often replacing a colonel, it was an easy choice because we had Jackie Williams on the team,” said Robert Moore, former USASAC Deputy to the Commanding General who worked with Williams for almost 10 years.
“When we had a challenging employee that needed special attention, we tapped Jackie because there is no one better at balancing mission accomplishments and the welfare of employees and their families.”
For Williams, the most memorable part of working at USASAC was interacting with employees and meeting international partners over the years. “I would like to think that I have remained posed and professional during my interactions, but at times it was truly a challenge,” said Williams.
A challenge none but Williams herself could handle according to former USASAC Commanding General Gen. Del Turner who commanded USASAC from September 2011 until June 2014. According to Turner, Williams had the reputation of being the most experienced and capable of USASAC’s senior civilian leaders and it showed in the ways she worked with the different agencies and countries in EUCOM/AFRICOM.
Turner stated Williams was exceptional in leading all the different security assistance enterprise organizations (combatant commands, lifecycle management commands, program executive offices, embassy security cooperation offices, Army Contracting Command and many others) to ensure USASAC was fulfilling the Army’s commitment to our international partners. Williams built a culture of cohesive teams that are highly trained, disciplined and fit.
“Jackie never demanded respect, she earned it everyday” said Turner. “Everyone, both within and outside of USASAC, respected her tremendously because she was easy to work with and always found solutions.”
Turner described Williams as competent, respected and selfless – the personification of what America expects of our senior civil servants.
“I was and am still proud to have served with Jackie Williams,” said Turner. “They say you are judged by the company you keep and I am very proud of the fact that I can associate my name with hers.”
Despite receiving numerous awards and recognitions from foreign governments and defense contractors, Williams said it is important to always be gentle and kind to others.
“Always be mindful of what you say and how you treat people,” said Williams. “At the end of the day, it is the people: family, friends, bosses, co-workers and the janitor all contribute to our success.”