March 18, 2019 (by SSgt. Arielle Vasquez) - When Col. Adrienne Williams, 387th Air Expeditionary Group commander, was only 10 years old, she knew she wanted to follow in her father's footsteps by serving in the world's greatest Air Force.
Col. Adrienne Williams, 387th AEG commander, stands with fellow aircrew members after completing her fini flight at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia on March 1, 2019. During her career, Williams flew approximately 2,300 hours. [USAF photo by TSgt. Robert Cloys]
The military way of life was never new to her. Williams spent majority of her childhood in Colorado Springs, Colorado where her father, retired United States Air Force Col. Kenneth Fleming, worked. From an early age, her parents provided her with a stable foundation and inspiration to shoot for her dreams, no matter what the obstacle may be.
"My parents always told me, ‘you can be and do anything you want to do, just believe in yourself,' Williams said. "Around third grade, I attended a USAFA graduation. Toward the end of the ceremony, all the kids were allowed to run on the field and catch the graduating class' hats. The hat I caught had a piece of yellow paper inside that said ‘be a wise American' and it had a silver dollar on it. I knew in that moment I would be going to school here."
Never deterring from her goal, Williams graduated the United States Air Force Academy in the class of 1996. From there, she continued on to navigator training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas and finally Little Rock AFB, Arkansas.
"During this time, navigation was still a male-dominated field," Williams said. "The women in my peer group were the ones who were starting to break many barriers and doors were widening. I am glad to see that throughout the years, it has grown tremendously."
After successful completion of her training, she was winged in 1997 with her first assignment taking her to Dyess AFB, Texas.
Her Air Force career has taken her to many bases around the world to include Yokota Air Base, Japan, Scott AFB, Illinois, Headquarters Air Force, Washington D.C., Andersen AFB, Guam and now Southwest Asia.
For the majority of her career, Williams flew C-130 Hercules models to include E, H and H3. As recently as two years ago, active-duty U.S. Air Force bid farewell to H-models for newer J-models. Unlike the H-models, the newer aircraft do not have navigator nor engineer positions.
"As technology emerged, systems have taken over those positions in the aircraft, Williams said. "Navigation is an age-old career and I am happy to have had that opportunity to be a part of that. It is definitely bittersweet to see the end of an era, but it's what we need to do in moving forward."
To close out one chapter of her career, Williams flew on her fini flight, which dates back to World War II of the U.S. military celebrating pilots' and navigators' final flights to honor sacrifices and victories that previous generations of Airmen have made.
"My fini flight was so much fun – it was a nice day with great cloud chasing," she said. "Reflecting back, I am grateful for all the flying opportunities I have had over my career, but at the same time I am looking forward to what's to come."
After 23 years, Williams' passion for service is stronger than ever. Her next career move will take her back to Scott AFB to work as the director of Command and Control under the 18th Air Force.
"I joined to fly, but more importantly I joined and continue to serve because I love my country," she said. "My family and I are excited for what lies ahead."
Williams wants to remind everyone, especially women who are interested in pursuing a career in the U.S. Air Force that opportunities are always there with the right attitude, drive and perseverance.
"Every door is open to you. Never walk by it if you want to go through it," she said. "Once you have your mind set on something, you can do anything you want to do."