WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the military career of Major General (retired) William Wofford, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and former Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard, in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Wofford grew up in Clarksville as the oldest of three children in a family with deep military roots. As the son of a WWII veteran who continued a military career in the Arkansas National Guard, he learned about service and sacrifice at an early age.
“Growing up I always wanted to be a soldier,” Wofford said. As a child he looked up to the men in his life who had served in WWII. His dad, uncles, neighbors and members of his church were called to serve. Additionally, he was influenced by Hollywood and the movies of John Wayne as well as James Garner who starred as William Darby in the 1958 film “Darby’s Rangers.”
After graduating from Subiaco Academy, Wofford studied at Arkansas Tech University. At the time, participation in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) was required.
“My first semester in ROTC was not real thrilling. I think part of that probably has to do with the fact that as a basic soldier listening to orders wasn’t really inspirational. When I got promoted to a squad leader, all of a sudden things changed,” Wofford said.
He earned a degree in mathematics and was commissioned as an Army officer. After graduation he received orders to go to Fort Benning, Georgia for paratrooper school.
Wofford spent four years on active duty with assignments that included participation in a NATO joint training exercise in Turkey and serving as Battery Commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 6th Battalion, 14th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division at Pinder Barracks in Zirndorf, Germany.
After his commitment to active duty ended, Wofford pursued a job with the FBI. While going through the hiring process, he joined the Arkansas National Guard. Not long after, he accepted a full-time position and made the Guard his career.
“My father had a great influence on me. He kept trying to talk me into joining the National Guard. I did not want to be in the same unit with my father who was a Command Sergeant Major,” Wofford said. He wasn’t familiar with the Guard’s field artillery unit, but when he learned about it he decided that it needed to be his career.
Wofford worked at the Guard units in Harrison and Fort Smith before performing a variety of role at Camp Robinson for the Arkansas National Guard.
In November 1990 he was asked to command the 2nd Battalion of the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade during its deployment in support of Operation Desert Storm. As a devoted family man, Wofford wanted to tell his wife, Jana, in person about his reassignment and mobilization, but before he made it home, she saw it on TV. He said that was a tough day, but has always appreciated his wife’s support of his career. “It’s been a partnership throughout my entire time in the military,” Wofford said.
Wofford said he was honored by the Guards’ leadership entrusting him to take Arkansans into combat. “My entire focus was on ensuring every one of our soldiers made it home safely,” he said.
As Wofford and his soldiers waited for their equipment to arrive, they stayed at Khobar Towers, a high-rise Saudi Arabia apartment building that was the in the crosshairs of nightly scud attacks. While a nearby U.S. Army Patriot Battalion was successful at knocking the scuds out of the sky, Wofford believed his soldiers would be safer in the desert and away from this obvious target. “In the desert I felt like we could protect ourselves,” he said.
The 2nd Battalion of the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade supported the VII Corps Artillery with support operations while awaiting the arrival of their howitzers. Within 24 hours of getting their artillery equipment, the 2nd Battalion participated in combat operations.
Wofford served in a number of roles for the Arkansas National Guard including a tour at Army Forces Command where he helped mobilize Guard and Reserve units in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2007, Wofford was appointed as the Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard, a position he held until 2015.
Wofford served in uniform for 43 years. Today he continues his service as a member of veteran service organizations and other boards and committees that support Arkansas veterans.
“General Wofford has spent his life giving back to his country. As a decorated leader and devoted officer he has made a difference in our country and to the countless individuals who served under his command. I’m honored to share his memories of military service with future generations of Americans,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Wofford’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.