Williams: To Graduation by Way of Kuwait
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
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
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.