WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Born and raised in Wichita, Greg Williams joined the Army National Guard after high school in 1980. After basic training, he went to Fort Gordon, Georgia, where he became a technical wire specialist. But after he came back to Kansas, he says he was given a completely different job.

“[I] came back home, and they stuck me in 11 Charlie, which is 11mm mortars,” Williams said.

While stationed at Fort Riley, Williams would plug in coordinates to fire weapons (specifically 81mm mortars) out on the base’s range. The ammunition could hit targets up to four miles away.

“It (the ammo) was around 3-4 inches in diameter, round, and about a foot long,” Williams said. “It was interesting to see what kind of damage it would do to a vehicle or what kind of crater it would put in the earth.”

After spending roughly five years at Fort Riley, Williams signed up for a change of scene.

“We went to Central America, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama, and each time we built schools in little villages so kids wouldn’t have to walk five to ten miles just to go to school,” Williams said. “Each brick we put up, we had to check and make sure it was level, and each layer, we had put up, we had to make sure it was level—if not, we’d have to tear it down and start all over.”

Williams would then take up engineering in the states—training to become a heavy equipment operator in Oklahoma.

Little did he know when he went back to the infantry in 2000, his whole trajectory would change just one year later.

“I was working at WSU (Wichita State University) then, and I was watching the planes hit the twin towers, and I called my supervisor and said, ‘okay, they’re going to be calling us up,’ and in November, close to Thanksgiving, they called us,” Williams said.

More than 20 years after he joined the Army National Guard, Williams went on active duty. In January 2002, Williams’ squad would land in Germany.

“And then we thought we would be going to Kosovo, we were told, but the guy that was already there ahead of us, they sent them, and we stayed back,” Williams said.

For the next nine months, Williams would guard a U.S. Army Garrison east of Frankfurt. There, family members of those sent to the front lines were kept safe.

“Turkish groups, you know, gangs, you know, 4-5 Turkish groups going around different gates, threatening to come in and threatening to do damage, but we was trained to, they can talk all they want when they outside that gate, but they come inside that gate, that’s a different story,” Williams said.

The gratefulness of the families he protected remains as vivid to Williams as it was while he was in Germany.

“We got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of ‘thank yous,’ ‘glad you’re here,’ ‘we appreciate you,’” Williams said.

Williams would retire in December of 2003 and would go on to work for USD 259 for ten years. He currently works for the Wichita VA in engineering and maintenance.

If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at hannah.adamson@ksn.com.