Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My 9/11 Tribute: LCDR David Williams, USN

Lieutenant Commander David Williams served as the department head for the Operations Department aboard US Nashville (LPD 13) from 1999-2001. In his roll he led over 80 men who he was charged with taking care of, training and inspiring. He did all of that and more.

LCDR Williams was known for his department “all-hands” meetings. Although they were held to discuss important issues and business with his men, they would normally decay into a stand-up routine where he would take good natured shots at us, regardless of rank, and it was always funny. His spot-on impressions of his Sailors, his mocking of the stories we never knew he heard about and his laughter in reaction to others doing impressions of him always created a sense of team, brotherhood and trust. He knew his Sailors.

However, Dave Williams was no pushover. Those who did not perform up to what he perceived to be their best ability were called to task and no one ever wondered where they stood with the ‘Operations Boss’. His trust in his officers and Chiefs was felt throughout the ranks and no one ever questioned his dedication to the Navy and his men. Everybody wanted to be like LCDR Williams and no one wanted to let him down.

At home his dedicated wife and two children understood that he loved the open sea and loved his job. After graduating from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) he went directly to sea and served aboard 3 ships before finally being convinced by his family to take a job that was not on a ship, but was in fact in the worlds largest office building; the Pentagon.

LCDR Dave Williams worked for the Chief of Naval Operations (The highest ranking officer in the Navy) and although land locked, he did enjoy his job. The daily grind of the ‘Zoo’ was no measure for Williams’ work ethic and unwavering sense of humor: a must for working in the Pentagon. Adding to his joy was the news that his he and his wife, Sara, were now expecting their third child. A boy, he hoped, to help balance out the two girls that would help their mother gang up on him. In the end, it didn’t matter to him because the only thing he cared more about than the Navy was his family.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 all hell broke loose. The nation was under attack and a concerned Sara called her husband at the Pentagon to ask him what was going on. Dave Williams knew he only had a moment to talk to his wife because the entire building was racing to react to the attack. That conversation was cut short.

Lieutenant Commander David Williams spent his final moments serving his nation at the headquarters of the Department of Defense and the Navy he loved. David Williams was killed as highjack American Airlines flight 77 slammed into the side of the Pentagon

News of his death spread quickly and within days, those of us e who were still serving aboard USS Nashville had received the news that one of our own had been killed in the attacks. Those who served with him were shocked, saddened, angry and heart-broken.

Thousands of families lost love ones that day but we lost “Ops Boss” and that was all we needed to know to make this horrific day even worse.

Every year I think of LCDR Williams and how he served not only his nation, but a team of Sailors who are better people for having served with him. Before he left USS Nashville, Williams wrote me a letter of recommendation for the Navy’s officer program. In 2002 I submitted that letter with my application. In 2003 I became a commissioned Naval Officer and I know in my heart that LCDR Williams, given the chance, would have been proud of me… but would have not missed the opportunity to give me a little hell, do his impression of me and remind me of where I came from. Every year about this time I think if that and I think of David Williams and I am sad but grateful for having served with him.


Scott said...

Great tribute my friend... I feel like I knew LCDR Williams after reading that. Thank you.

Having served in more than one Ops Department aboard several vessels, I know how important it is to have an Ops Boss who is "in there" with the troops... Sounds like LCDR Williams was that man.

Thanks for sharing...

Mikey said...

Nice Piece Brian...It really sucks that I only think about OPS around this time though.

The Squeaky Wheel said...


yeah, I know... But you have to admit, I was damn good at doing an impression of him with a certain waltz and a spit cup!

The Cruzers said...

Very nice tribute. I had the honor of being in the same company as Dave our senior year at VMI. I didn't know him in the Navy world but knew his quiet confidence would serve him well.