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2011-04-07

Carrying on a 'family tradition'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

R. "Luke" Williams, son of Ralph and Linda Williams of Bandera, recently received an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He will join the Class of 2015.
Williams' military career carries on a family tradition. After serving tours of duty in Korea, Vietnam and Central and South America, his father retired from the US Army as a sergeant major with the Special Forces. According to the elder Williams, attending a service academy was something Luke had focused on "since he was 10 years old." His diligence paid off and his parents couldn't be prouder.
According to Carolyn AM Benyshek, USAF Academy director of admissions, Williams' appointment was one of approximately 1,500 from a pool of 10,000 applicants. "It is the equivalent to a scholarship valued at $414,000," she wrote in a letter to Williams, dated, Friday, March 25.
Benyshek continued, "Your previous accomplishments indicted you have the potential to meet the demands and challenges of the Academy and you should be extremely proud of your appointment as only the best of the best are so honored. I compliment you on a tremendous record of personal achievement and look forward to welcoming you to the Cadet Wing on June 23."
Williams began preparing for his military career in 2007 when he was an eighth grader at the Pipe Creek Christian School. As a cadet senior airman, Williams was recognized for outstanding achievement in leadership and academic standing for participating in Civil Air Patrol (CAP) activities at the school. Commander of the 804th Squadron of the Texas Wing of CAP Eileen Stephenson presented Williams with a citation and medal, as well as a ribbon for his uniform.
"The Air Force Association Award is only given once a year," she said in an interview with the Courier at that time.
"No one is more deserving of this award than Cadet Williams. Not only is Cadet Williams an outstanding cadet, but he is also an outstanding student. He carries a full curriculum and maintains a very high grade point average. He carries a big load." Williams also served as public affairs officer and cadet commander, and was a member of the CAP Color Guard.
That same year, after attending the CAP Non-Commissioned Officer Academy, he participated in the Texas Wing Cadet Training and Education Program's Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy (SNCOA) at Camp Mabry in Austin.
In 2008, Williams served as cadet chief master sergeant with the Bandera County Cadet Squadron that competed as members of the Lackland Cadet Squadron drill team in the Texas Wing Competition.
Williams also became the first enlisted cadet in the Bandera County CAP Chapter to earn officer status. At the time of his promotion, Williams described the far-reaching rewards of participating in the CAP program, noting, "It teaches a lot of skills you can use later in life."
Just two weeks later, he and nine of his fellow cadets participated in a Ground School Training Mission, set on rugged terrain south of Bandera. Stephenson and Reserve Officers Maj. Greg Jensen and Lt. Col. Paul Rojas of Three Rivers accompanied the group.
The next year, Williams attended the Advanced Training Squadron (ATS), held concurrently with the Texas Wing Winter Encampment. He was one of only 42 CAP cadets from across the United States to attend ATS.
That year, he was selected as a candidate for the prestigious Order of the Daedalians Cadet Flight Indoctrination Program (CFIP), sponsored by Stinsons Flight 2 of San Antonio. Stinsons Flight sponsors the Order of Daedalians Junior ROTC for Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps JROTC units at 46 San Antonio and South Texas high schools.
As a CFIP candidate, Williams attended an abbreviated FAA ground school and received dual instruction from FAA certified flight instructors. This enabled him to fly solo flight in a Cessna 172 at Stinson Field.
In July 2009, Williams completed his flight training, as well as the required solo flights, earning his student pilot's license after attending CFIP.
Last summer, he participated in a summer seminar at the Air Force Academy.
A senior at Our Lady of the Hills in Kerrville, Williams participated in football and soccer and ran track for three years participant in track. Currently, however, he is concentrating taking flying lessons in Kerrville in preparation for getting his solo private pilot's license.
"I was really hoping for the appointment," he said in an interview. "I'm very excited and look forward to the challenge the Academy will provide to help me become a stronger person."
Not surprisingly, Williams also looks forward to "flying jets."
The Courier wishes him and his family the best of luck. After graduating from the US Air Force Academy perhaps Williams will follow the example of noted Marine Corps pilot, the late Bruce Montague - although buzzing Bandera's Main Street in a military plane was probably verboten even way back then.

Pictured: Bandera County resident R. Luke Williams recently received an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is the son of Ralph and Linda Williams.