CARTHAGE — After serving in the New York Air National Guard for more than 25 years, Command Chief Master Sgt. Sonja Williams of Carthage has became the first woman to serve as senior enlisted leader for the 174th Attack Wing.
According to a press release Ms. Williams took command Feb. 4 during a change of authority ceremony held at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, replacing Command Chief Master Sgt. Michael Will who retired after serving as wing command chief since 2017.
“I want you all to know that I understand the importance of this position and that I am here for you,” Williams said at the ceremony according to the prepared statement. “I am here to empower you, listen to you, to continue to uphold the outstanding reputation that you all have cultivated as members of the 174th Attack Wing.”
Ms. Williams said she moved to the north country in 1994 with her ex-husband, who was then stationed at Fort Drum, along with her three children.
Ms. Williams joined the New York Air National Guard in 1997 as a personnel specialist and previously served as the senior enlisted leader for the 174th Mission Support Group.
“Initially I joined for the educational benefits but fell in love with all the additional opportunities that the Air National Guard had to offer,” she said. “It felt less like a job more like a family so I decided to stay past my first enlistment. I am very proud and honored to have been selected as the next Command Chief for the 174th Attack Wing. I look forward to our continued success as a wing and being there to enrich, empower and engage the airmen of the 174th Attack Wing.”
She graduated from Jefferson Community College in 1997 with an associate degree in liberal arts, transferred to SUNY Potsdam to obtain a bachelors in secondary education and Spanish along with a master’s degree in reading. In 1999 she moved to Carthage and has been teaching Spanish at Carthage High School since 2001.
The Air National Guard press release states that following her completion of technical school, Ms. Williams returned to the 174th Attack Wing, assigned to the command support staff in the 174th Logistics Readiness Squadron. After cross training in the education and training career field, Williams assumed the role of unit education and training manager for the 174th Civil Engineer Squadron. After deploying in 2011 to Kyrgyzstan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Williams was selected in 2012 to serve as the Human Resources Advisor for the wing, a post she held until 2018.
In addition to serving as the senior enlisted leader for the Mission Support Group, Williams served as the senior enlisted leader for the 174th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
In addition to teaching and serving in the guard, Ms. Williams served for two years as president of her local branch of the American Association for University Women and currently serves on the board as past president. She is a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Dionne-Rumble Post 7227 and is the co-creator of the Carthage High School Step Team along with the late La’Dell Tallman. She is adviser for Carthage High School Key Club and sophomore class along with being the World Language Department chair.
In the guard, Ms. Williams has received numerous awards and decorations, including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air and Space Commendation Medal, the Air and Space Achievement Medal, the Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.
The New York National Guard — New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs — is the state’s executive agency responsible to the Governor for managing New York’s Military Forces, which consists of nearly 20,000 members of the New York Army National Guard, the New York Air National Guard, the New York Naval Militia and the New York Guard.
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