Barry's new bunch: TV star named honorary member of 4th Fighter Wing squadron
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 14, 2007 2:11 AM
A younger Barry Williams might have joined the service had his warm smile not caught the eye of a Hollywood casting director.
He would have, perhaps, been a member of the Coast Guard like his father.
He would not have been Greg Brady.
So as the 53-year-old walked the grounds at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Friday, he carried with him a sense of "deep pride" in knowing he would be among men and women he considers heroes -- if only for a day.
What he did not know was that by sunset, he would be one of them.
An honorary induction into the 4th Fighter Wing's 335th Fighter Squadron and an afternoon ride in one of the 333rd's F-15E Strike Eagles made it official -- civilian Barry Williams might have walked onto the base, but "Chief Stalking Wolf" is the man who left it Saturday.
3335th "Chiefs" Capt. Don Haley said it was a great honor for Williams, an avid supporter of the armed forces and longtime USO entertainer, to be brought into "the tribe."
So as the command pilot put on his headdress and took his seat, he shared the history of the squadron with the celebrity -- and then gave him a call-sign.
Williams called the rites "as cool as it gets," and said he was moved when Haley honored those squadron members who have fought, are currently fighting and those who have fallen.
"We had a semi-secret, somewhat abbreviated honorary member ceremony," he said. "It was just, 'Wow.' I was blown away."
"Your roots are forever planted in our tribe," Haley said. "And because you have history with our sister tribes ... you will forever be known as Chief Stalking Wolf."
Williams got the reference and had a laugh.
It was Episode 52, Season 3, of "The Brady Bunch," when Williams, as Greg Brady, was given an Indian name after getting lost in a canyon.
"I can't remember all the others but I remember what mine was," he said. "I was Stalking Wolf."
When the ceremony ended, Williams posed for pictures with airmen, spouses and children.
He shook hands, shared stories and thanked each one for their service.
And then he was gone -- off to the next plot line -- where the climax of this episode-like day was waiting at the 333rd Fighter Squadron.
Williams was about to get a ride in the F-15E.
But before the flight, he had to do some politicking.
After all, this newly named Chief was getting that flight from the "Lancers."
"What I wore became an area of contention," he said, laughing. "I mean, here I am -- I've just been honored. I mean, I'm a Chief. But now I'm flying with the Lancers. We compromised."
He wore each squadron's patch on either arm.
And beneath the flight-suit, socks bearing the Chiefs emblem were "balanced out" by a 333rd T-shirt.
Williams even got a Lancer who was formerly a Chief to pilot him.
"I just happened to luck out," he said, smiling.
When the time to fly came, he walked down the flight line and climbed into the cockpit.
"I sat down and I was comfortable immediately," he said. "From the time they lowered the canopy, I knew I was good to go. I told (the pilot) I had a need for speed."
His pilot, call-sign "BOBBY," did not disappoint.
"We went up about 15,000 feet in a few seconds," Williams said. "I was looking back the whole time and it was just like, 'Bye-bye Earth.'"
The next hour saw the former "Brady" completing barrel rolls, "dropping bombs" and pulling power turns.
"We were doing power turns, doing them left and right," Williams said. "It was just crazy good. And you could see on just for forever. The sky was just so clear."
And at the end, a little low-level flying "sealed the deal."
"You haven't lived until you are 500 miles per hour at 400 feet. I mean, it's unbelievable," Williams said. "It was the dessert of desserts. I didn't want it to end."
A few minutes later, the Strike Eagle landed and another episode in the life of Barry Williams was complete.
And like Episode 52, Season 3, of "The Brady Bunch," he said he will never forget the day he was named "Chief Stalking Wolf."
"It was the most exciting experience of my life," he said.
Just then, a tear rolled down his cheek.
Only Williams was not acting.
"It was a great honor," he said, choking up. "For me, that was a joyride. For them, that is their office. And when they go up, they are not playing. Appreciation is one word that comes to mind. Gratitude is another. It was just great."
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