William Ellwood, bodyguard to the brass
William Ellwood is a Navy man with a unique job.
The 26-year-old, Hudson High School grad is a Master at Arms, Second Class in the U.S. Navy with special training to escort the top brass among the military as well as members of the President Obama's cabinet. It is the Navy's version of specially trained Military Police.
The duty also includes taking care of celebrities on USO tours.
"It's an awesome job," Ellwood said in a telephone conversation from his current duty station at Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago.
Ellwood took the extra training at two Army bases, Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and volunteered for a joint command assignment in Afghanistan.
With combined operations between the services these days, he said he wears both Army and Navy uniforms.
"We flew to Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2010," he said emphasizing the significance of the date.
"We were assigned to the Joint Visitor Bureau, which handles every VIP that visits Kabul," Ellwood said.
While serving as a bodyguard overseas, he has been detailed to escort some very high ranking politicians.
"We have escorted just about everybody at the top of government except the president, vice-president and secretary of state," he said. The job includes taking care of lodging, transportation and personal security for the VIPs, Ellwood said.
Military higher-ups included the Joint Chief of Staff, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Naval Operations, Marine Corps Commandant, and an admiral who heads up the Special Operations Command and is the highest ranking SEAL in the Navy.
Civilian celebrities he has guarded include comedians Robin Williams and Lewis Black and cyclist Lance Armstrong. He sounded mildly disappointed the planes that brought the guys didn't include the cheerleaders that accompany some USO excursions.
"We drive them (VIPs) around in armored super Humvees," he said. "Kabul is relatively safe. When we go outside the wire into the city the biggest thing you have to watch out for is vehicle bombs."
Ellwood, who graduated from Hudson High School in 2003 and joined the Navy shortly thereafter, will finish up eight years in the service July 7.
"I'd like to stay in for 20 years," he said. "But things are pretty competitive with cutbacks."
When he imagined being back in a classroom at HHS before graduation he said, "I never thought I would come so close to so many VIPs."
For his service in Afghanistan between Sept. 11, 2010 and April 20, Ellwood was awarded the Afghanistan Campaign medal, Non Article 5 NATO medal and Joint Service Commendation medal.
The citation for the Joint Service commendation Medal said, "The distinctive accomplishments of Master-at-Arms Second Class Ellwood reflect great credit upon himself, the United States Navy and the Department of Defense."
In addition to his regular duties, Ellwood volunteered at a refugee camp. "I handed out food and blankets to 60-plus families," he said.
"I also did volunteer work for an Afghan orphanage giving school supplies and toys," he added.