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Andre Williams: To Graduation by Way of Kuwait
by Paul Alan Rosen (December 12, 2003)

Andre Williams graduated from the University at Albany Sunday, Dec. 7, along with the other seniors who have completed their studies here. His journey to acquire his degree, however, has been far from ordinary.

Williams, 22, hails from the Bronx and graduated from Evander Childs High School in 1998. He joined the Marines and was sent to Parris Island Boot Camp in South Carolina, then, after completing combat training, to Virginia for job instruction. He now holds the rank of corporal.

Following his training in the Marine Corps, Williams enrolled at Long Island University in January 1999, and transferred to the University at Albany in the fall of 2000. After living on Alumni Quad for only one semester, he had made an impression on the Residential Life staff there and was hired as a resident assistant for Alden Hall in late 2001. And then, the tragic events of September 11 occurred. Many reservists were activated and sent to the Middle East at the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003. Williams was one of them, and he left the University lacking only three credits for a bachelorís degree in economics.

Last January 25, he joined fellow reservists of the 6th Communications Battalion stationed at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, and left for the Middle East February 14. Upon arrival in Kuwait, the battalion was split up and assigned to its full-time Marine counterparts. Williams and others were stationed at Camp Commando, just 30 miles from the Iraqi border. The camp was still being set up when they arrived, and Williams was assigned to fill sand bags, build structures, and dig holes for power and communication lines. During this last project, old land mines were found from the first Gulf War.

Williams and his unit were originally designated cooks for the camp, but because the Marine Corps outsourced this job, they were assigned to Force Protection. This more dangerous job included guard duty, interior camp watch, and providing armed escorts to and from Kuwait City and Iraq.

While Williams never spent much time in Iraq, he said Camp Commando was still in a dangerous area. During the course of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, there were 40 incoming missile alarms and three missile impacts on the perimeter of camp. Luckily, no one was injured while Williams was there.

The Residential Life staff members on Alumni Quad were concerned about their colleague at Camp Commando. To let him know they were thinking of him, the entire staff sent a package to Williams. He was grateful for the gift even though, he recalled, ďI almost got mugged by my fellow Marines when they saw I had received a box of Frosted Flakes.Ē

In honor of the staff he left behind, Williams was allowed to fly a new American flag (provided by the Marines Corps) over Camp Commando for a day. During their stay, Marines were permitted to fly flags in honor of others, and to return with those flags as gifts to the honorees. Williamsís flag was presented to Alumni Quad at a ceremony in Waterbury Hall December 5. University administrators and Residential Life staff attended. The flag is now on permanent display in the Alumni Quad Information Center and can be viewed during regular office hours.

Williams came back to the United States July 15 and returned to UAlbany this semester in order to complete his bachelorís degree in economics. Williams is not sure what mission he will embark upon next, but his ever-present smile is sure to be missed on Alumni Quad.

 

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