News: Cincinnati Marine takes mentoring from wrestling mat to tank track
Story by Cpl. Marco Mancha
COMBAT OUTPOST SHIR GHAZAY, Helmand province, Afghanistan -- He assumes his position on the mat with a fierce look set on his opponent. The sweat beads run down his forehead, his heart racing as the crowd cheers in anticipation for the match. A quick blow of the referee’s whistle signals the start of the match and young Larry springs toward his challenger. The sound of the cheering crowd fades, drowned out by his concentration as he focuses on a victory.
Cpl. Larry Williams, a tank gunner with Alpha Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, recalls his wrestling days like they were yesterday, a sport the Cincinnati native excelled in. He started wrestling at a very early age and competed in small community tournaments in and around his hometown.
“My first time being on the mat was rough, but I immediately fell in love with it,” said Williams with a smile. “Grappling gave me such an adrenaline rush.”
The rush sparked his motivation to continue wrestling throughout his youth before reaching high school. The black-haired, brown-eyed teenager took his passion for wrestling to the next level in high school by spending long hours in the gym exercising and working on different grappling techniques.
Williams was then invited to be a part of the state team for Ohio and competed in several tournaments around the United States. The Elder High School Panther placed in the top three on several occasions among hundreds of competitors in his weight class.
He continued to wrestle throughout high school and at one point was invited to be a part of the Junior Olympic Wrestling Team. No one ever thought he’d leave the world of wrestling for something else according to Williams – but he did.
“It was hard to leave it behind but I had always wanted to join the Marine Corps since I was little,” explained the 21-year-old. “Fighting on the mat was all I had done for most of my life and it was something I loved. So why not give something back to my country after it gave me the freedom to do what I loved for so long.”
Leaving wrestling behind didn’t mean he had to forget everything it taught him. He carried many of the lessons learned and mastered during his Greco-Roman and freestyle grappling days and applied them to his current profession.
“My favorite part about wrestling was learning new moves and techniques and teaching the same stuff to the younger guys,” explained Williams. “Now, teaching the junior Marines the different tank positions, stepping back and seeing them take charge and understand what they’re doing is great for me.”
The avid Bengals fan has also become a mentor to his subordinates in other ways, frequently offering advice. Pfc. Jacob Tuckett is a driver in William’s tank and said he has a high regard for his gunner, especially when it comes to being a tanker.
“He’s taught me a lot about the driving station, track work on the tank, the loading station and whenever we have free time he tries to teach me about the gunner’s station,” said Tuckett, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, about Williams. “He’s confident in his leadership skills, gets the job done very well and I really look up to him.”
Williams isn’t just admired by his junior Marines, but by his superiors as well.
“His main roles include everything from sweating it out in the gunner’s hole to picking up rapid and detailed scans of the area,” said Newnan, Ga., native, 1st Lt. David Conlan, a platoon commander with the battalion and William’s tank commander. “Also, when it comes down to maintaining the tank and keeping it running so the crew can have an effective tank when we leave the wire, the role primarily falls on him and he does an outstanding job.”
Williams said he would continue to try his best in all he does whether it’s on the cratered terrain of Afghanistan or the black and purple mat of Elder High School. Will he ever return to the wrestling mats? The tanker mentioned he still tries to visit his high school back home and help the coach instruct the aspiring wrestlers, but his focus in life right now is family, serving his country, and mentoring his Marines.
Editor’s note: The battalion is currently attached to 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.