By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, July 24, 2006 – Three reserve-component members related their insights and experiences from service in the war on terror to a congressionally chartered committee in San Antonio on July 19. Army National Guard Sgt. Christopher B. McWilliams, Coast Guard Reserve Chief Petty Officer Douglas Gilmer, and Air National Guard Master Sgt. Alphonso W. Allen provided testimony about their military service to the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves.
McWilliams, a member of the New Hampshire National Guard since May 2001, said he's been deployed to the Horn of Africa, Kuwait and Iraq. McWilliams said he was severely wounded in Iraq after nine months of service there. "My fellow soldiers responded heroically," McWilliams said, "placing fire on the enemy, setting security, and calling in my medical evacuation. "Had my fellow soldiers not responded in the manner they did, I would not be here today," said McWilliams, who is now assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry.
McWilliams characterized his medical care as superb. After returning to his stateside unit, McWilliams and other injured soldiers in his unit attended mandatory Veterans Affairs counseling sessions during drill sessions. "This ensured that soldiers who may have been having problems received the necessary attention," McWilliams said. "This act of leadership of my company may have prevented numerous incidents and was great for the morale and overall well-being of the company."
Allen served 10 years on active duty with the Air Force before joining the Air Guard's 168th Air Refueling Wing, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in October 1998. The Air Guardsman served a four-month stint in Kuwait in 2002 and volunteered for and served a seven-month tour in Iraq in 2005. Allen pulled perimeter-security duties in Iraq. That service, he said, was instrumental in "protecting 10,000 coalition troops, 2,000 of which were U.S. Army soldiers."
Pulling guard duty at the base's entry point was "a first within the Air Force," Allen said. Today, it is standard procedure for Air Force security personnel to serve as first-line defenders protecting air bases in Iraq. Allen said his unit confiscated more than 1,000 weapons and 300 unauthorized cell phones, which often are used to detonate enemy-emplaced improvised explosive devices.
"My troops also successfully neutralized an attempt to breech security at the main gate, destroying a decoy water truck vehicle-borne improvised explosive device and its occupants," he said. Gilmer is a port security specialist with the Coast Guard Sector of Baltimore, Md. He said he joined the Coast Guard Reserve in 1998 after duty as an infantryman in the Virginia Army National Guard. "All of us volunteered to be reservists, and most of us, I'm sure, are quite proud to have had the opportunity to serve our country when it needed us most," Gilmer said.
He said he's appreciative that reemployment rights legislation helps protect Guard and reserve members' civilian jobs when they're called away on military duty. "I'm happy to report that I have had no reemployment problems resulting from my mobilization," Gilmer said. All reservists need to know that their civilian jobs and financial security are safeguarded while they're deployed, he said.
"Patriotism is a common denominator," Gilmer offered in explanation as to why Guard and reserve members continue to serve their country during the global war against terrorism. "I'm proud of what I do, and look forward to many more years of Coast Guard service," he said.