Boyd Buzz Veteran Spotlight: Lester Williams

Lester Williams is not a “one-thing-at-a-time” kind of guy. The Security Shift Manager at Ameristar Casino Resort Spa in St. Charles, Missouri juggles his role as a husband and supportive dad to his sports-loving kids. On top of that, he excels at keeping guests and team members safe and sound. If that wasn’t enough, he simultaneously served in the Army National Guard for nearly 10 years.

What would possess someone to take on such a challenge? According to Williams, it’s his nature blended with patriotism and his family that inspire and sustain him.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to run into danger,” he says. He finds unpredictable environments exciting and finds rewards in giving people a sense of safety.

Williams’ thrill-seeking is balanced by his appreciation for Ameristar St. Charles’ caring and structured environment. After having watched his father work at the resort for a few years, Williams saw how much the property cared for their team members and how, in turn, that care made the difference in the guest experience. So, in 2006, he followed in his dad’s footsteps and joined the Ameristar security team.

One night, Williams had a hard time sleeping, so he started channel surfing. He landed on a documentary about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While he was aware of what had happened that fateful day, the documentary gave him a newfound appreciation of the impact it had on our country.

“I was inspired to contribute,” Williams recalls. “I needed to do something to prevent this from ever happening again on American soil.”

So, Williams signed up for the Army National Guard at a duty station in Festus, Mo. He spent his time bouncing back and forth between the resort and his duties as a transport operator and heavy equipment operator.

In 2014, his unit, the 220th Engineer Company, moved from Festus, Mo. to Fort Bliss, Texas and then to McGregor Range in New Mexico for training. After a long overnight flight, he set foot in the hot, dry desert in Afghanistan – ready for duty with no idea when he’d be back home. His acclimation was immediate. “My first morning, I woke up to a missile attack on our base.” Not exactly the welcome wagon one hopes for.

Nonetheless, Williams and his fellow soldiers sweated their way through their tours in Kandahar and Helmand Province, home of Camp Leatherneck. Assigned with deconstructing bases during the withdrawal of American troops from the area, he helped the military downsize from 90,000 troops to nearly 15,000.

Although his service was a rewarding adventure, he happily returned to his home state and his lovely bride.

Even though Williams’ service ended, the lessons from his National Guard days persist. He learned that sometimes collaborative efforts yield the best course of action, even in quick response situations. He believes he’s better equipped to deal with guest issues.

“The military taught me the value of putting others first and how to stay cool and calm under pressure,” says Williams.

When there’s an issue, he knows he can rely on his training and his well-honed instincts to keep guests and team members safe.

After three years of working as Williams’ supervisor, Director of Security Gayle Ezell sees the value of his service firsthand.

“His military background gives him a unique frame of mind,” says Ezell. “While he’s very goal-oriented and works independently, he looks out for his team. He’s more than a boss. His team is an extension of his family.”

Since he’s usually on the overnight shift, Williams’ had more than his share of interesting experiences. According to Ezell, “Other teams have come to rely on his level-headedness and calm demeanor to help de-escalate difficult situations.” By taking time to listen and relate, they know they’ve been heard and feel positive.

Whether he’s on the battlefield or the casino floor, you can depend on Williams to give his all – no matter what.