Local heroes: VHS JROTC adds two to Wall of Honor

Published 3:23 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Two Vicksburg natives were honored Saturday at a special meeting of the Vicksburg High School JROTC when Brigadier General (retired) Donna R. Williams and Brigadier General (retired) Robert Crear were formally inducted onto the coveted Wall of Honor.

BG Williams was commissioned through the Senior Army ROTC Early Commissioning Program (ECP) at Jackson State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. She went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree in information technology and military management from Toura University and a Master of Strategic Studies degree from the United States Army War College (USAWC) at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.

Williams served in a variety of roles over the years, including as Army Sustainment Command’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program Support Officer during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Baghdad. She has also served as Garrison Commander at Fort
Hunter Ligget, Calif.; Force Management Division Chief for the United States Army Reserve Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.; 926th Engineer Battalion in Birmingham, Ala.; and key leadership positions in various roles across the U.S., including Maui, Hawaii, Dallas, and Atlanta.

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BG Williams has received a number of awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters.

In retirement, BG Williams continues to serve, contributing her expertise to the Engineer Research and Development Center
(ERDC) at the U.S. Corps of Engineers Reachback Operations Center in Vicksburg.

BG Crear was born and raised in Vicksburg, graduating from Temple High School, before pursuing higher education at Jackson
State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He later earned a master’s degree from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Crear’s military career spans 33 years, during which time he held many roles, both overseas and at home, including Military Assistant to the Assistant Secretary at the Pentagon and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in
Washington D.C. He has also commanded various units, including the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, Vicksburg District, Southwest Division, and Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

BG Crear was appointed to lead the Mississippi River Commission and later served on the ground in Iraq as Commander of Task Force Restore Iraqi Oil, leading missions aimed at restoring critical infrastructure and stabilizing regions affected by conflict and natural disasters.

BG Crear has received a number of awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star Medal. He has also been recognized by a number of organizations, including the Society of American Military Engineers, where he was inducted into the Academy of Fellows.

BG Crear has also served as chairman of the United Way of West Central Mississippi and is actively involved in various philanthropic endeavors, including serving on the board of the Salvation Army and the JSU Development Foundation.

Both Williams and Crear addressed the crowd Saturday prior to a reception in their honor.

Williams spoke highly of the JROTC program, crediting it with helping start her military career.

“The JROTC is still a strong citizenship,” she said. “Everyone thinks that when you join the JROTC, you are going into the army, but they have more to offer. The JROTC program gives you life lessons that you need to go forward in your career.”

Williams said the skill she learned stuck with her and aided her as she moved up the ranks.

“These skills were further defined as I joined the army and joined the officer ranks as second lieutenant to brigadier general,” Williams said. “JROTC played a vital and significant part in my development and success over the past 37 years, in the army and subsequently in my civilian deployment.”

Crear also credited the skills, lessons, and values he learned as a young man for his success in both the army and in life.

“When I was at Jackson State, I was commander of the ROTC drill team,” Crear said. “We had a great time. But I have been very blessed to have been born in a community like Vicksburg, that has been so nurturing to me. Vicksburg made me. My heroes growing up were not movie stars. They were not athletes. My heroes growing up were the generation before me.”

Crear said it was those who played pivotal roles in his childhood that helped prepare him for his roles as a leader in the army.

“Our teachers allowed us to dream,” he said. “I came to Vicksburg to get promoted to Brigadier General. I wanted to get promoted amongst all the people who made me who I was. I invited all my teachers, from elementary through Jackson State to be there; all the people in my neighborhood to be there. Because, again, those are the people that I hold in high esteem. Those are the people who made me who I am today.”