Year of the Airman story: Emergency Management specialist trains personnel for the transition process and real-world disasters

  • Published
  • By Maj. Neil Samson
  • 932nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Air Force emergency management (EM) specialists develop plans and procedures to train and protect Air Force personnel to meet EM mission needs. They often train personnel to prepare for disasters most people would run from.

Staff Sgt. Desiree Williams, 932nd AW Civil Engineer Squadron Emergency Management non commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) is one of those EM specialists who train personnel for the uncertainties of natural or manmade disasters.

While Williams trains personnel for the unpredictable nature of any number of potential disasters, she also prepares personnel for the uncertainties of military transition for Air Force Reserve personnel in one of her roles as a 932nd AW Airman and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) counselor.

Unlike active duty, traditional reserve personnel have full-time employment or operate a small businesses in their respective communities.  When AF Reserve personnel have to attend a technical training school, deploy overseas, or serve a long-term temporary duty assignment (TDY), they have to take military leave from their job.  Once they return from this military leave, they often need transition counseling to integrate with their full-time jobs, some members even have to look for new job opportunities.

“Sergeant Williams conducts initial counseling with Air Force Reserve members going through the transition process, or separating from an order going past 180 days,” said Deb Teague, 932nd Airlift Wing A&FRC program manager.  “This includes reviewing a member’s self-assessment and determining what the member may need going forward.”

 “She educates and informs members in-person and via social media on services and benefits available to them now and in the future,” added Teague. “We requested her Staff Sgt. Williams by name because she was fully capable to undertake these responsibilities in A&FRC with little to no supervision, especially during the 932nd AW’s deployment spin up and execution.”

After providing A&FRC counseling services during the week, Williams switches roles on Reserve unit training assembly weekends (UTA) to be the 932nd AW EM specialist.

“Sergeant Williams stepped-up in the absence of a full-time EM specialist,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jason Griffith, 932nd Civil Engineer Operations Management superintendent.  “She is working above her rank and pay grade in a senior NCO role, bringing a positive impact to the 932nd AW EM program.”

As one of her EM duties, Williams is well-known across the 932nd AW as a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives (CBRNE) course instructor, which is a long and intensive class.

 “As the EM NCOIC, I am mainly known for teaching the CBRNE course, but I oversee the entire EM program for the 932nd AW, to include the shelter-in-place (SIP) program, EM representative program, emergency action plans, which is inclusive list on what needs to be done if something were to go wrong, such as an active shooter,” said Williams.

Although Williams teaches 932nd AW personnel to prepare for a “worst-case disaster scenario,” she applied her CBRNE expertise to a recent real-world situation here at Scott AFB.

“In 2018, there was a suspicious package at the post office with powder on the package and a postal worker had an adverse reaction,” said Williams. “I supported the operation by ensuring the active duty trailer was prepared with all essential equipment.”

“I also assisted the emergency response team by helping those members put on their suits, and I was on standby in case I had to go inside to sample the chemical,” she added. “Fortunately, the powder turned out to be pancake mix.”

Using her teaching and real-life experiences as an EM NCOIC, she said completed her Community College of the Air Force degree in EM, even though it does not relate directly to what she ultimately wants to do.

“The skills that I am learning now are setting me up for the path I am going down currently,” said Williams. “I started working on my bachelor’s degree in legal studies and I expect to be done in December 2022.”

“The following year, I will do an accelerated master’s degree program while studying for the law school admission test (LSAT),” she added. “My goal is to go to law school and to get into one of the 'Top 3 schools,' Stanford, Yale, or Harvard.”

Williams’ attributes her inspiration to serve in the Air Force to her father, who was in the Air National Guard.  She thought it was amazing to have that ability to serve in the military and have a full-time life outside the military.   

Despite the demands of having dual military requirements as an A&FRC counselor, EM specialist, and a full-time student, Williams said her favorite part of the job is the people. 

“I cannot do my job alone and I need help from fellow 932nd AW team members to make the EM program work,” she said.

Her leadership recognized Williams’ dedication to her job, commitment to her fellow 932nd AW teammates and perseverance towards her professional education.

 “There is no doubt in my mind that Staff Sgt. Desiree Williams is one of the most dedicated Emergency Management professionals in the 932nd CES, she is truly a subject matter expert in her field, and embodies the whole Airmen concept,” said Griffith.  “The 932nd AW and our squadron has reaped the benefits of her educating others though her thorough CBRN instruction, dedication to her career and steadfast commitment to furthering her education.”