Adrenaline-rush is why I stay

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Julie Briden-Garcia
  • 301st Fighter Wing
"I've always wanted to fly ... ever since I can remember. It was a fascination I had even as a small boy."

He slid his elbow onto the table, took a sip of water from the bottle, twisted the cap back on, and began to reveal what this vice commander is made of. 

Even though Tommy Joe Williams was born in Oklahoma, he moved to Houston with his family where his lifelong fascination with airplanes began. 

Colonel Williams knew as a boy that he wanted to fly. "I've got pictures that I drew when I was three years old of jets--fighter jets." 

When he became old enough to fly, he worked in a store sacking groceries for $30 a week. He explained that the dual pilot lessons he signed up for cost $29 a week, leaving him a dollar for the rest of the week--and there was a girlfriend and car. 

"It didn't go very far but I did get my pilot's license at 17." 

He continued to work. However, now he and another 17-year-old schoolmate busied themselves at various charter airports around Houston: fueling, oiling, cleaning, and restocking the food and drinks in personal aircraft. 

After graduation in 1979, he attended Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program where he received his pilot slot, earned his degree and his obtained commission in '81. He then went on to train and to fly various fighters in the active-duty Air Force for the next eight years. 

In 1989, he joined the 301st Fighter Wing to fly the F-4E as a traditional reservist. He trained here and flew full-time with Delta Airlines for the next couple of years. It was at that time, when the Gulf War exploded on the scene, the wing transitioned to the hometown-built F-16 aircraft. 

He has worn many hats since joining the unit from flight commander, assistant deputy commander of operations to the commander of the operations support flight, the fighter squadron and now as vice commander of the 301st FW. 

Within his current position, he has many responsibilities. First and foremost, he says, is to support the wing commander. 

"The vice's objective is to ensure the wing is in lockstep with Col. Pottinger. I also ensure the wing continues to function in his absence." Colonel Williams also took charge of a program very near and dear to his heart, the Human Resource Development Council. 

"The Air Force Reserve is not all about airplanes. It's about people; people of all ranks and backgrounds engaging together in the same mission yet encouraging diversity." 

This is what he does; this is what he has done for the past 26 years and what he plans to continue doing for some time to come. In the event Colonel Williams leaves the Air Force Reserve, he does have a second passion--race cars. 

"I know whenever it comes time to stop flying F-16s that the level of adrenaline I reach when flying jets can easily be replaced racing cars. It's a real adrenaline inducing activity." 

"I'm 45 years old and there are other things out there that I've never got to experience." 

He already has amateur racing in his sights; he owns his own Spec Miata which he lets loose in Cresson, Texas, a track southwest of here called Motor Sport Ranch. 

"I consider it an immense honor and privilege to serve the members of this outstanding Fighter Wing," said Colonel Williams.
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