Nov. 17, 2017 —
The Defense Logistics Agency director shared wisdom and personal insights with more than 20 Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps members Nov. 14 at the McNamara Headquarters Complex, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Army Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, along with other DLA senior leaders and national account managers, briefed students from Franklin Military Academy in Richmond, Virginia, on the agency’s mission and functions.
Williams also recounted lessons from his life and career, beginning with his upbringing in West Palm Beach, Florida, where paying for college was a struggle for his parents of nine children. “The only reason I got into ROTC and came to the military was that it was the only way I could pay for school,” he said.
When he graduated from Hampton University in Virginia with an Army commission through the ROTC, he planned to serve only the requisite four-year tour, he said. However,“34 years later, I’m still in the military.
“Although I grew up in a patriotic family, I didn’t truly understand this thing about service to the nation,” Williams said. “Service to your nation and to your community is pretty significant; ROTC is a big step in the right direction.”
The general insisted his remarks were not a recruiting pitch. Regardless of career choice, Williams told the cadets, the ROTC experience will help develop them as leaders.
“People in the civilian world will gravitate toward the leadership experiences you’re getting right now,” he said. “This growth and development is going to help you, whether you join the military or go into civilian life.”
Paramount among leadership principles is leading by example, Williams said.
“I know you often find yourselves in situations where you’ve got to make a decision,” he said. “You have to ask yourself: ‘Am I going to risk my future by doing something I know I shouldn’t do, even while no one’s watching?’” The outcome of bad decisions “can be extremely embarrassing,” he said. “But more important than that, it can affect your ability to get a security clearance.”
Williams cautioned the students that they’re always being evaluated. “I’m a three-star general, and I’m being evaluated every single day; you’re evaluating me right now,” he said. “And that doesn’t change.”
He emphasized the importance of education. “One of the keys to the rest of your life is getting your education,” he said. “Take your education seriously.”
Williams said students need to prepare themselves for future responsibilities before leaving the security of home and high school. He noted that the military can help defray the cost of higher education through programs like the ROTC, the service academies and the GI Bill, as well as opportunities to earn degrees while in the military.
Right now, the military is particularly interested in those with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, he said. The director majored in psychology, and he said that education has helped him to be an effective leader.
Williams fielded questions about his career path, greatest challenge, daily activities, how he manages DLA’s nine supply chains — and how to become a three-star general.
“If you decide to come into the military, we’ll give you the training you need to go to successively higher levels of responsibility,” Williams said. “And if you’re really, really lucky, you might get a chance to lead an agency like this one.”
Asked which supply chain is hardest to manage, the general said they all have their unique challenges — but none of them is easy. “If something looks too easy, you’re probably not looking at it hard enough,” he said.
As to what advice he would give his teenage self, Williams said, “No matter what career path you choose, make sure it involves some level of service. And do your very best. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”