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Master Gunnery Sgt. Richard L. Williams, Marine Air Control Squadron 1 communications/electronics chief, steers his parachute toward the drop zone inside the Canon Air Defense Complex Dec. 1. MACS-1 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Tim J. Pierson reenlisted Williams inside a Cessna C-206 before jumping out of the plane and completing the ceremony in mid freefall.

Photo by Cpl. Michael Nease

MACS-1 Marine reenlists in mid freefall

1 Dec 2005 | Cpl. Michael Nease

A Marine Air Control Squadron 1 leader of Marines completed his 7th and final reenlistment ceremony in mid freefall Dec. 1 after jumping out of a plane over the Canon Air Defense Complex.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Richard L. Williams, MACS-1 communications/electronics chief, was reenlisted by MACS-1 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Tim J. Pierson. The two began the ceremony in a Cessna C-206 at about 13,000 feet above sea level but waited to say the final words of the oath -- so help me god -- while plummeting to earth at about 120 mph.

Their parachutes opened and they slid into the drop zone to a cheering group of squadron Marines.

Williams, for whom sky-diving is a hobby, has 620 jumps under his belt, but for Pierson it was a new experience. He was in very capable hands though, as he tandem jumped with Chief Warrant Officer Jay Stokes, a retired Army Green Beret and tandem-jump master.
Stokes has jumped more than 14,000 times and is a four-time Guinness world record holder.

Pierson was reluctant to do it, but is glad he was able to make a special moment in a Marine’s career that much more special, he said.

“Would I do this again on my own? Absolutely not,” said Pierson. “Would I have done it on my own? Absolutely not. But it’s a very significant event for (Williams), and for him to ask me to be a part of it is a great honor for me. It’s a chance to show my respect and admiration for the Marine and help ensure that it’s a moment in his career that he’ll remember for the rest of his life.”

Williams joined the Marine Corps in 1979 under an open contract. He assumed he’d be an infantryman, and was surprised when the Corps shipped him to Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., to learn aviation electronics. In his 26 years of service he has worked in three of the Corps’ five MACS units, become one of the few master instructors in his military occupational specialty and developed MOS classes for the tactical air operations center maintenance course, which trains all of the Corps’ TAOC Marines.

Williams wanted his final reenlistment to be special, and thought a good way to do it would be while sky-diving with the CO, especially since the two are from the same hometown -- Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Williams said he joined the Corps for the job and the adventure, not out of any special love for his county, but Williams found a deep love for Corps and country through the memory of another Marine from Council Bluffs.

When he was 10 years old, in 1968, Williams remembers seeing a picture of Pfc. Michael G. Rindone in the Council Bluffs newspaper. Rindone, a friend of the family, was killed in action while walking point on a search and destroy mission with the “Walking Dead” -- 1st Battalion, 9th Marines -- in Vietnam.

Williams remembers his aunt coming back from Rindone’s funeral and remarking about his white gloves and how she thought he must have been wounded in the hands.

Twenty-eight years later, in 1996, when Williams was a gunnery sergeant, he went home for his son’s high-school graduation and took a walk through the local cemetery to visit the graves of his relatives. While walking, he happened by chance to look down and see the tombstone of Pfc. Rindone.

“I’m telling you, I was ten years old again instantly,” Williams said. “The first thing that went through my mind -- not only did I see that picture, but I heard my aunt saying ‘the white gloves,’ and I thought, “He was a Marine!

“As a ten-year-old, it meant nothing, but I was a gunny at the time, and I’ll tell you what, I almost started crying,” he continued. “Right at that time, a light bulb went on in my head and all this stuff that seems like (bull) that you hear, is not -- it’s real. And at that point I fell in love with the Marine Corps -- because of people like him and what Marines like him have done over the years.”

Since then Williams has developed a close friendship with the Rindone family, and even had a shadow-box made in Rindone’s memory. He keeps Rindone’s boot camp picture in his office.

During his final enlistment, Williams is looking forward to deploying with the squadron and taking care of his Marines.

“I’m just looking forward to being around Marines and working with them for the next three or four years,” he said.

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