News: Philly police officer, Soldier trying to win Iraqi hearts, minds
Story by Spc. Paul Harris
by Pfc. Paul J. Harris
3rd HBCT, 4th ID PAO
BAQUBAH, Iraq (October 11, 2006) -- "A little boy stood up and asked 'are you a killer?' And I replied 'no I am not a killer,'" said Sgt. 1st Class Gerald Williams, Company B, 404th Civil Affairs Battalion from Fort Dix, N.J., attached to 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Task Force Lightning, referring to his time spent on mid-tour leave in 2005 speaking in front of his niece's middle school.
"They look at TV and see all the bad stuff going on, the fighting the killing, but I gave them something that touched their heart," Williams said.
He stood before the children in his Army uniform and told them that we're no different than the children of Iraq. The Iraqi children want to play little league soccer and be free just like you, he told the class. At the end of the program he felt the children had a better understanding of what U.S. Soldiers were doing in Iraq.
Williams is currently on his fourth combat deployment since he enlisted in the Army in 1979. A native Philadelphian, he went to Benjamin Franklin High School and has fond memories of hanging out with his brother and friends at Kelly's Swimming Pool.
In addition to being a Reservist in the Army, he is also a patrolman with Philadelphia Police Department's 18th District.
His police training has been put to good use while deployed in Iraq doing the job of civil affairs. Dealing with Philadelphia's wide cross sections of cultures has been good training for dealing with Sunni, Shia and Kurds in Iraq. His current mission is to help the Iraqis assume more control of their country as opposed to when he was here 14 months ago when it was all about the elections and humanitarian aid.
"In my first deployment from September 2004 to June 2005 there was no Iraqi police presence or Army presence," Williams said. "They were there but it was a small group of them because they were in a training phase at that time. There was more violence then there is now because you have more Iraqi Army and Iraqi police presence."
Even though the violence is less common in his current deployment that does not mean he has not found himself in harms way. While coming back from the Governors' Center in downtown Baqubah, his patrol came upon Iraqi Army Soldiers engaged in a firefight with insurgents. One of the Iraqi Soldiers ran over to the U.S. vehicles and asked for their assistance. As soon as he did Williams and the rest of the patrol came under fire.
At this moment is when his Army training took over and he immediately helped coordinate a 360 degree defensive position and was able to assist the Iraqis in quelling the insurgent attack.
Williams believes this incident is an example of how far the Iraqi Army has come in less than two years.
"If it had been the Iraqi Army of 2004 they probably would not have returned fire and would have not asked for help and fled," Williams said.
As a result of his actions that day he was recommended for the Combat Action Badge for his actions on contact with the enemy.
Though his current deployment is only halfway finished Williams is looking forward to getting back to Philadelphia. Not only to see his family but he misses his beloved Eagles and places like Pat's Steak House in South Philly that he and his cop buddies like to grab a bite while on shift.
Even though a place like Pat's seem far off, Williams is enjoying the success of projects he has helped Iraqi contractors complete like a brick building facility and the reconstruction of school houses. He knows that his work here will remain long after he is gone.