TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Every Reserve Citizen Airman has a unique story for how or why they started their Air Force career, but in the case of Chief Master Sgt. Takesha Williams, it was the desire to own a car.
Williams currently serves the Air Force Reserve in two roles. As a civilian, she works for the 507th Air Refueling Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, as the wing budget analyst. As a Reservist, she is the command chief of the 931st Air Refueling Wing at McConnell AFB, Kansas.
Almost 30 years into her Air Force career, she squints her brown eyes and laughs as if in slight embarrassment when she admits why she initially joined. Smiling freely while reminiscing back to 1992, she explains that she spotted an Air Force Reserve Recruiting office and thought to herself, “That’s how I’m going to get my car.”
This wasn’t just a whim, though. Backtracking a bit, Williams clarifies in a more serious tone that her mother’s advice is what drove her to take this initiative in life.
“My mom was a single parent with two kids,” Williams remembers out loud. “She said to me, ‘Kesha, you have to be responsible for what you want out of life. As much as I love you, I can’t afford to buy you a car. So you have to do the best that you can to get what you want out of this life.’”
Little did she know that her dream of owning a car would result in a successful career as a Reserve Citizen Airman.
Settling her small frame back into her chair, Williams describes a defining moment in basic training when she realized that she was a part of something greater, and that she and her fellow Airmen together could accomplish so much more than she could alone. Spreading her hands apart, she calmly states, “I belonged. It was that simple.”
Williams has served the 507th Air Refueling Wing in multiple capacities, and currently, as the wing budget analyst, she is responsible for the wing’s operation and maintenance finances.
To some, working with numbers may sound like a boring job, but when asked why she does it she scrunches up her face, laughs and says, “I love numbers. I just do, and I don’t know why. They certainly don’t love me!”
Williams has a hand in everything from renovating buildings to paying the utility bills, and she ensures funds are available to keep the wing running smoothly.
With an even tone of voice and direct gaze, Williams states that doing her job effectively is what she takes the most pride in.
“It’s all about knowing your job and doing it to the best of your ability. I think if you can do that, you can walk around with your head up and be proud.”
As she speaks, Williams swerves her chair in small motions from side to side as she explains how her success has led her to become a command chief.
Regardless of a person’s ultimate career goal, according to Williams, the recipe for success is a mixture of persistence, mentorship and direction. As she formulates her words, she looks around the room as if searching for the right thoughts to explain what she means.
“I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t been mentored,” she says. “Good mentorship is sitting down with the individual and finding out what their aspirations are and then helping to build a plan to make that happen.”
Sitting up in her chair, Williams leans forward and places her hands vertically on the table in front of her, as if to emphasize her words.
“We have to realize that progress sometimes can be slow,” she continues with a direct look. “Maybe we don’t get into the course we want this year, so we try again next year. We have to be persistent. But at the same time, we need to be careful not to push what we want onto other people. As mentors, we have to be comfortable working within the parameters of the Airmen we’re mentoring.”
As she finishes her thought, she seems to relax and leans back into her chair. Her brown face is smooth and calm, appearing confident and sure of her words.
The highway to success is often littered with opportunities to learn and grow. Whether it’s choosing to take the moral ‘high road’ or taking the ‘scenic route,’ where a person chooses to drive can have long-lasting effects.
One such opportunity for Williams was when she took the wheel as the Reserve course marshal for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Every year for more than a decade, she’s been responsible for gathering Reserve volunteers to help manage the course during the marathon.
“Chief John Beasley, 465th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, was the one who did the job before me,” Williams explains. “He came to me and said, ‘I think you would be good at running the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon for the Reserve.’”
Williams gives a big grin as she states, “And the rest is history.”
As Williams continues to speak about her roles and responsibilities, the old and new volunteers who show up to help and the overall enthusiasm of the crowd, her voice softens as she begins to address the reason behind why the marathon is held every year.
“I love what it stands for,” she expresses. “We lost a lot of people in the 1995 bombing. So the opportunity for us to come together, for one cause, even if it’s only for a day, speaks volumes. To be a part of that is a very humbling experience. So that’s why I keep doing it.”
Williams goes quiet, as if in deep thought.
According to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon website, their mission is to celebrate life, reach for the future, honor the memories of those who were killed and unite the world in hope.
Williams encourages people to participate and when asked if there was one message she could give to the world, she only offers one simple statement, “I would always encourage people to be the change they want to see in others.”