Grand County soldier shares experiences with students before returning to Afghanistan
July 5, 2009
While Pfc. Chris Williams visited home for two weeks from his tour in Afghanistan, “hanging out a lot” was how he passed the time, he said. He went rafting on Clear Creek and went hiking a few times, “but basically a lot of hanging out, which is something I haven’t done in five months, so it was pretty nice.”
On the last day of his leave, however, he took the time to visit summer school students at the East Grand Middle School. Later, he would visit his dad’s office at the U.S. Forest Service to give another presentation.
“Is being in the Army fun?” one summer-school student of Abby Loberg’s class asked Williams.
In a nutshell, Williams said there are stressful times, that it takes a certain type of personality to have a combat job.
“Have you ever been shot?” another student asked.
“Almost,” Williams said. One time a full bag of sunflower seeds bulging from the pocket of his pants received a bullet – a close call indeed.
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One student asked, “Have you ever shot anybody?”
“Yes,” he said candidly. Twice.
“It’s something that’s not great to talk about, but it happens and it’s my job to do it. If they hadn’t been pointing their weapons at me to shoot me, I probably wouldn’t have shot them. It’s me or them, so…”
“Have you ever shot a rocket launcher?” was the next question, followed by a series of curiosities about the weaponry and equipment Williams handles.
The Middle Park High School 2007 graduate enlisted in the Army that same year.
Having trained in Alaska, Williams was deployed to Afghanistan six months ago in the 1st Squadron Airborne unit of the 40th Calvary in the 25th Infantry Division.
From outpost missions such as walking patrol on the ridge lines carrying 90 pounds of equipment in the central-eastern Paktia Province of Afghanistan, where ambushes are not uncommon, to driving a military Humvee for humanitarian work such as visiting with the local citizens, Williams has already experienced the rites of war.
“My company is not on the border, but the province does connect with the border, so we do get a lot of Taliban traffic,” he said in an interview after the student session. “They come in over the border of Pakistan and disperse through the countryside.
“There’s no real defined front lines of Afghanistan, but the fact that we’re on a main route (of two routes that lead into Pakistan) makes it a very important area, not to say that anything’s unimportant.”
About 50,000 American troops now are stationed in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, Williams told the students, looks a lot like Utah, or even Byers Canyon.
“It’s not high mountains, but it’s pretty steep hills. If you look out at those mountains,” he said, pointing to the landscape outside the Middle School window, “that’s what we walk up and down every day, minus the trees.”
Riding off a two-week leave, Williams said he is a little apprehensive about returning overseas.
“I want to stay here, but I have to get back as soon as possible because I have a job to do,” he said. “I don’t want to feel responsible if something happens to someone who’s doing my job, instead of me being there when I could have prevented it – or could not have.”
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.