GATE CITY, Va. –
Military service for the women of Staff Sgt. Naomi Williams’ family has become a tradition. During World War II, Williams’ grandmother, her Nana, served as a truck driver and her mother served in the Navy.
“I think it’s great to recognize the trailblazers before us," Williams said. "I learned a lot from my Nana growing up. She instilled in me many of the characteristics and leadership skills that I have today.”
As far back as she can remember, Williams knew she wanted to join the military.
“From a young age, I knew I had wanted to get into either law enforcement or the military," Williams said. “My mom’s service in the Navy was an inspiration for me when I started my career.”
During her senior year of high school, Williams enlisted as a 74D Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Specialist and was first assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program until she attended basic training. At the RSP, new recruits learn the basics of military service, like the rank structure, drill and ceremony, and weapons familiarization.
“By the time I went to [Basic Combat Training], I already knew how to march," she said. "I knew my general orders, the Soldier’s Creed, how to count military time and most of the ranks. Everything that you learn during Red Phase, I already knew. It set me apart from my peers.”
When Williams returned from basic and advanced training, she worked as a 74D for a few years, then, ready for a change, transitioned to a 17E Electronic Warfare Specialist.
"Joining the Virginia Army National Guard allowed me to reside in my home state, which was what I wanted. It also allowed me to have more control over my career,” Williams said.
Support from her family has been an integral part of success for Williams, a single mother, as she’s moved through her military career.
“My mom and sisters, without their support during training and mobilizations and helping me with my son, it would have been more difficult to juggle my career and military service,” said Williams.
Now, after 14 years of service, Williams works as a recruiter for the Virginia Army National Guard managing 20 schools, including two community colleges. She also attends Liberty University and is working toward a degree in information technology.
"Who I am today is because of what my father taught me," she said. "I learned from him not to take life at face value but to discover the ‘why’ behind everything and to step back and see the entire picture. Not just a snapshot or piece of it."
Williams said she loves working with students from area high schools and community colleges. Because she’s working in smaller communities, she’s been able to build relationships with many of the students and is easily recognized.
“I love it when the students approach me while I am out," she said. "Having 20 schools has been a challenge, but I enjoy a good challenge. Recruiting is very different from anything I have done in the military before. It’s been a great learning experience.”
Williams said being a woman serving in the Virginia Army National Guard has been a great experience.
“It’s a career unlike many you will find in the civilian world," Williams said. "Your career is in your hands and the amount of determination and work you put in will directly impact your experience.”