Local Sailor Assists In Lebanon Evacuations
When he was 11 years old, James Williams caused some consternation in his Breezy Point home by taking apart the telephones and any other electrical equipment that happened to be handy. Today, however, nearing 30, Williams' interest in electronics is paying off not only for him, but for his nation as well.
Today, Williams is far from his Breezy Point roots as a Submarine Electronics Technician Second Class with the U.S. Navy who is in Cyprus, facilitating the just-completed evacuation of American citizens from the war zone in Lebanon.
Temporarily assigned to Crisis Management Team 59, his job is to keep the team's computer systems up and running so that the U.S. Marines could take more than 14,000 Americans from the Middle East battle zone.
"Now that the evacuation is over, our mission is to support the embassy and to assist any Americans still in Lebanon," Williams told The Wave in a telephone interview from Akrotiri Air Force Base on Cyprus Wednesday.
He was pulled from his instructor duty in Seattle, Washington, where he lives with his wife, Trish and recently-born son, Jimmy, to rush to the Middle East, first to Bahrain and then to Cyprus as the crisis developed.
His mother, Carol Gillen, who still lives in Breezy Point, told The Wave that she is proud of him for serving his country and has no problem with his being in Cyprus, close to the widening war.
"He's not really in a war zone, and he's serving his country," she said. "He was put on hold for service in Iraq because of this [crisis in Lebanon] and the thought of him going there made me nervous."
She says, however, that he is doing what he wants to do.
"He told me that he wants to do what he is trained to do," Gillen says. "He wants to do his part for his nation."
She says that he takes after his grandfather, her father, Neil Gillen, who worked for many years on the piers and the New York waterfront.
Williams says that his time in Cyprus is interesting, but not as exciting as his five years on the USS Nevada, a ballistic missile submarine.
He was serving as an instructor in the submarine school in Bangor, Washington when he was detailed to the Middle East.
He says that when the crisis is over he will go back to instructor duty for a short time and then back to sea duty on another submarine.
Meanwhile, his duty in Cyprus is placid because American personnel are not allowed to leave the base.
"I work most of the time," he says. "I go to the enlisted man's club. I go back to work."
His mother, meanwhile, remains proud of what he does and what he has become.
"A teacher at PS 114 told me that he would never amount to anything," she says with a laugh. "That teacher should see him today."