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AFCM(AW) Paul “Bam Bam” Williams honors Memorial Day and wears red every Friday to promote “Remember Everybody Deployed.”

AFCM(AW) Williams, ‘Remember all who paid the ultimate price’

By LAURA QUEZADA News Review Staff  Writer —

When we were unable to meet to talk about Armed Forces Day, Retired Air Frame Master Chief (Aviation Warfare) Paul Williams wanted to be sure that the News Review paid tribute to Memorial Day. He shared this message, “We, the people of these United States, need to keep in mind that we all need to remember that this day is to remember all of the service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Those members gave their life for everything we are allowed to do today in the United States. I say, ‘FAIR WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS’ and tip my drink to all of them. “

When we met, he elaborated, “Memorial Day, you know, a lot of people don’t really realize what it’s supposed to be. It is really just to recognize all those sailors, marines, and airmen, even back to the Civil War; we lost about 600,000 people during the Civil War. We’ve lost hundreds and hundreds of 1000s of people. We’re supposed to remember all of those people on Memorial Day. It’s not about me, still alive, still kicking. You know? I did my time. That’s what Veterans Day is for. Memorial Day is about remembering all those that have paid the ultimate price. And a lot of people don’t remember that. They don’t pay tribute to those people on Memorial Day.”

Uncertain of the protocol for addressing military personnel, Williams was asked, “How do I address you?” Expecting something like “Sir” or “Chief.” He replied, “Most people just call me Bam Bam.” He tells us, “ I was just made Chief, and I was going to my first command as a Chief, and Master Chief Bill McKinnon was the Maintenance Master Chief. Bill was sitting behind his desk, and I was checking in. I stood in front of him, getting ready to check in with him. He looks up, and he says, ‘ Bam Bam.’ And that was all he said. I’m standing there for a few more seconds, and I look at Big Paul Purty, who was running the maintenance desk, he said, ‘Man, go to work.’ And that was it. I got Bam Bam, and it stuck for all these years.”

“Master Chief” is the most senior enlisted member of the US Navy. Williams’ rise to this position got a slow start. “I wasn’t always the straight and narrow person that you see in front of you today. There was a little mischief back in my days. But once I was given the opportunity to take over a shop and I was married, just had a kid not too long before that, and realized that I’m gonna get my act together. After that, I was promoted pretty quickly.”

Knowing that enlisting was the way out of his small town, Pontiac, Illinois, he joined in 1989. After boot camp, he went to school in Millington, Tennessee, where he learned his craft. As an airframer, he repaired and maintained aircraft. “We bust knuckles,” he laughs. “We work on the airframe of the aircraft and hydraulic systems, everything, flight controls. We repair and fix them daily. As your career progresses, when you get a little bit of seniority, and you know more about the aircraft that you’re working on, that’s when you become either a Final Checker or a Plane Captain.” A Final Checker checks the aircraft before it takes off. “Plane Captains check the aircraft every day for issues that may arise or something that’s broke or something that just doesn’t look right.”

During his service, he did many tours in Whidby Island, Washington, and other continental U.S. Navy bases. He also did a few tours in combat zones: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. “Typically, I was on a ship. We fly off the ship, and that’s where I am in the Navy. There were a few times when we had what’s called expeditionary squadrons, where you actually fly from in-country. So I was at an expeditionary squadron for one tour, and we flew from in-country. Where we were, we were not really in danger, but there’s always the possibility. I carried a weapon. We had sirens going off in the middle of the night. So you’d have to hunker down, right? We had a missile come over one time. We’re not really safe, but we weren’t on the front line really doing business.

“The planes that we were working on at the time were cover for the guys that were in-country. We jammed radar, stuff like that.” The aircraft he serviced at that time was an EA6B. “They’re no longer in business; they mothballed them. Everything that we sent out came back. We had them come back with holes; we patched them up so they could go back and do what they’re supposed to do.”

Now Ridgecrest is Williams’ home. He was stationed here about 12 years ago. At one time, he was stationed elsewhere, but he kept his family here. Given the opportunity, he volunteered to be stationed in China Lake. He tells us, “Not a lot of people want to come to China Lake because it’s the desert. Nobody really knows what happens here. Once I got here, this town actually grew on us really hard. I have three boys; all of them went to school here for a little bit. My youngest boy graduates this year, but he’s been here the entire time he’s been at school. It’s a safe environment for our kids to grow up in here. So once we got here, and I settled in and got into the sports scene, and my wife got into the school system, you can’t really beat this town to raise kids. I had a chance to go to other places and actually transferred, but my wife and kids stayed here. And then I was lucky enough to come back.

“The real reason we stayed here was because of community, and it’s a safe environment.”

We met Williams on a Friday, and he took the opportunity to explain why he was wearing a red t-shirt. “Wear red on Fridays: ‘Remember Everybody Deployed.’ It’s just a way to remind everybody. We should actually be thinking of those guys: people that are overseas or doing God’s work right now.”