For the week of June 30, 1999  thru July 6, 1999  

Brad Williams graduates from Air Force Academy

Six years from an enlisted man, to second lieutenant


By JEFF CORDES
Express Staff Writer

Brad Williams is a good example of a young man who wanted something so badly that he went out and got it.

When he graduated from Hailey’s Wood River High School in 1993, Williams didn’t appear to have the academic qualifications to be accepted at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

He had a 3.75 grade-point average in high school and mediocre scores on his college entrance exams. Brad’s chances were slim so he didn’t even apply to the Colorado Springs military academy.

Instead, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in December 1993 under six-month delayed entry. He spent a year in the Air Force. Brad’s first assignment was in England.

The third son of Sharon and Mike Williams of Hailey was determined to reach higher.

"Brad made up his mind on his own that he wanted to be an officer in the Air Force," said his mother.

He applied to the Air Force Academy and was accepted.

On June 2, 1999, newly-commissioned second lieutenant Brad Williams shook the hand of President Bill Clinton and received his degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

In "order of merit," or academic ranking in his class, Brad was 137th out of 970. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.

Nine family members and one of Brad’s good friends, James Teply, attended the graduation ceremony at Falcon Stadium and the baccalaureate ceremony in the stunning 17-spire Cadet Chapel—indeed, an engineering and architectural work of art.

They were extremely proud.

And appreciative. The common understanding these days is that a four-year education at one of this country’s military academies is worth the equivalent of $250,000.

The four years flew by. Sort of. "You are counting four years to the date of graduation," said Brad with a laugh. "The countdown starts at 1,450 days and goes down."

Looking back, Williams realizes he has achieved much over a thousand-plus days.

Brad, 24, said, "After high school, I didn’t really expect to end up where I did.

"A lot of people said it wasn’t going to happen when I was enlisted. Even though my superiors weren’t helping a lot, I kept asking questions and plugging away. I figured, what do I have to lose?"

His mother Sharon said, "Brad has always loved a challenge. He’s had some interesting years since he’s been out of high school."

Among the challenges he tackled in four years at Colorado Springs were a full and rigorous academic load normally featuring 22 credits per semester. He majored in biology and fell one class shy of a double major, in chemistry.

The cadets at Colorado Sprigns are graded in military, academic and athletic areas—and Brad Williams made the Superintendent’s or Dean’s Lists for four years.

Athletically, Brad was very active with Wood River Gymnastics in high school. At the Air Force Academy, he did a little bit of everything.

Initially, he made the gymnastics team but suffered a stress fracture of his lower back in his first year of school. He played volleyball, and had surgery on his tailbone.

Those physical setbacks didn’t prevent him from participating in a variety of sports.

Basketball, scuba diving, martial arts, the pistol team and the fitness test were activities he tried. Brad played on six or seven intramural teams. He parachuted, was a member of the soaring club, and soloed in a glider.

He excelled in the military disciplines as well.

In survival training, the new cadets had to evade capture by upperclassmen and sergeants. Brad became operations officer in his squadron—second in command out of 100 people.

Of course, when he arrived home in Hailey after a week of ceremonies and parades at Colorado Springs, Brad was back in the family hierarchy.

With his father now giving the commands, the newly-commissioned second lieutenant found himself pounding in fence posts!

The menial labor won’t last forever.

This fall, Brad will attend the University of Idaho in Moscow. There, he’ll spend about a year-and-a-half working on his masters degree in chemistry.

He’s looking forward to 8 a.m. wake-ups, instead of rising at 5 a.m.

After that he’ll have to spend five more years fulfilling his six-year post-graduate commitment to the U.S. Air Force. The commitment takes him through the year 2007.

Brad expects to enter the Air Force School of Communications in Jan. 2001.

With the economy humming along and the Air Force sending officers on "an unbelievable number of deployments throughout the world," he said, communications is an area that is now undermanned.

"It’s probably 50 to 60% manned," Williams said. "I’m now scheduled to go back into communications, but I may go into some research facility."

Williams will consider a career in the military after his six-year hitch wraps up. But family obligations and job opportunities could alter his plans between now and 2007.

He’s a small-town person.

Brad’s parents and siblings were raised here.

His parents Sharon and Mike Williams celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary June 25. Sharon Haar Williams graduated in 1969 from Wood River High. Mike Williams graduated with the final class—of eight students—from Bellevue High School in 1963.

Sharon’s stepfather, Charlie Benson of Hailey, at one time ran Benson Clothing Store. Charlie is a World War II veteran who earned a Bronze Star in the Italian theater.

The couple’s oldest son is Chad Williams, 28, of Boise.

A 1989 Wood River High graduate, Chad spent six years in the U.S. Navy including two six-month tours in the Middle East during Desert Storm. Chad has worked for Micron in Boise for the past four years.

Travis Williams, 25, graduated from Wood River in 1992 and earned a business degree from Boise State University in 1997. Currently, Travis is working on a special project with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Brad’s sister Summer Williams, 19, just completed her first year at Loyola-Marymount College in California, where she is studying theater arts.

An All-State volleyball setter during four years at Wood River High, Summer is spending the summer of 1999 working at Buckin’ Bagel in Ketchum and is spending some quality time with Hailey’s Company of Fools troupe.

It’s quite an active family, one of which the Wood River Valley can be very proud.

 

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