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Soldier in focus: He never quits

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Posted: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:13 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins

1st Air Cavalry Brigade public affairs

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - More than most, soldiers know about never quitting.

Sgt. 1st Class Pierce Williams, once an infantry noncommissioned officer, had moments in his life where quitting was given as an option.

Williams, an intelligence noncommissioned officer for future operations for the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, now on his third deployment to Iraq, never thought he would be shuffling through intelligence reports - not after one fateful day in 2006.

He joined the Army in May 2002, six days after he graduated from high school, following in his older brother's footsteps.

In February 2003, less than four months after arriving at his first duty assignment with the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C., he deployed to Iraq.

"I was 19 years old and coming over here to Iraq was crazy. You're shooting at people, you're getting shot at," he said. "It was nothing that you'd experience back in the states."

With one deployment behind him and after a yearlong training period with his new unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, he was on his way back to Iraq.

For the first 65 days of his new deployment, he wasn't very impressed with the amount of enemy action. It was a welcome lull in fire fights and daily rocket attacks of his last deployment.

That all changed the night of Dec. 10, 2006.

Williams volunteered his soldiers to go on a patrol so that his comrades could get some much-needed rest.

But his decision to do so almost immediately brought on uneasy feelings. What made it worse was his Soldiers had the same premonition.

Night fell, and the convoy set out.

While on the road, Williams was constantly tried to radio his headquarters for an updated status of his route in regards to roadsides, but to no avail.

Suddenly, he was blasted in the face by a giant fireball that slammed him violently against his door.

Only Williams and his driver made it out alive.

Williams was medically evacuated by the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, the unit he now serves with.

His left ear had been filleted from his scalp by a piece of shrapnel. The left side of his upper torso was pelted with numerous entrance wounds from the explosion and debris.

The list of injuries goes on: second-degree burns to his face, neck and hands, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and bilateral hearing loss. He has a couple dozen pieces of shrapnel inside his body - some the size of quarters.

The bomb did not take his life. His goal was to come back stronger than ever and continue to fight as an infantryman.

It took 22 months of surgeries, physical therapy and counseling for him to finally go before a medical board that held the fate of his military career in its hands.

It said he could medically retire or stay in the Army, but he could no longer be an infantryman.

"After 22 months of healing and fighting to get better (only) for them to tell me that I can't live my dream of being an infantryman was absolutely crushing," Williams said.

Instead of quitting, he became an intelligence sergeant, which was an intimidating idea at first, he said.

However, it turned out he already had a knack for the intelligence field.

"I was the type of squad leader that wanted as much intel as possible on whatever operation I was doing - whether it was training or real life," he said of his days as an infantryman.

"Little did I know, at that time, that I was doing an intelligence job," he said.

Now, sitting in an office chair surrounded by multiple computer screens with red secret stickers on them, he feels the direct impact he makes on the soldiers – in this case aviators – who go outside the wire.

"I've gone out on missions where I've had bad intel … where things have gone horribly wrong," he said. "So I know … that if I don't do the job to my best abilities, then something could go horribly wrong; that's what drives me every day."

Williams puts all of his energy into making sure soldiers are safer on the streets and in the skies of Baghdad. His story and his actions motivate the soldiers around him as he puts everything into his work.

"I don't like to fail. I like to be first in everything I do, whether it's being an infantryman or doing intelligence," Williams said.

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