Homeport Director Returns From Duty In Iraq, Afghanistan
On any given day for over a year in the Iraqi desert and mountains of Afghanistan, Army Chief Warrant Officer Will Wahler braved scorching temperatures, sandstorms and the occasional scorpion in support of a ground-to-air system shielding 3,000 U.S. and NATO troops.
“It’s an assignment I accepted with great pride, a responsibility that I took very seriously. If something went down at two in the morning I was up to get it fixed,” Wahler said. “You do it so that your fellow service members can go home to their families.”
And then it was over, time to restart family and civilian life 7,125 miles away in Central Ohio.
Fourteen months after his Ohio National Guard deployment carried him to Texas, Oklahoma, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, Wahler has returned to his wife and three children and his work colleagues at Homeport.
“We missed Will tremendously while he was gone but we're appreciative and grateful for his service protecting our freedoms,” said Homeport Chief Financial Officer Valorie Schwarzmann, his supervisor. “We are very thankful he has come home safe and sound.”
Wahler was hired by Homeport in 2013 to work in the organization’s Finance Department. He had already served 13 years in the National Guard.
“We knew it was a possibility he could get called up for active duty,” Schwarzmann said.
Wahler’s first extended duty occurred a year after he came to Homeport. He was assigned to protect federal buildings in the Washington, D.C. area.
In early 2017 he was called up again. After eight weeks of training in El Paso, Texas and Fort Sill, OK, he was deployed near Mosul in Iraq, and, subsequently, Kandahar, Afghanistan.
His assignment: work with contractors in maintaining the defense system established to shoot down rockets and mortars fired on American troops and allies.
In protecting fellow troops, Wahler faced 117-degree temperatures, blinding dusty winds, camel spiders and scorpions.
Phone communications, sometimes spotty, were available to speak to family. But that could not really bridge the distance home with wife Mandie and their three children, Gabe, 14, Aly, 9, and Lilly, 6.
“I missed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, everyone’s birthdays. That was the hardest,” Wahler said.
Also missed, a father-daughter dance. Another father participating with his daughter stepped in for Wahler and took Aly as well – a story told by local CBS affiliate Channel 10.
“I knew he was going to take her. I did not know there was going to be a news story,” Wahler said with a chuckle.
Wahler returned April 16th to Homeport. The office was decorated with streamers and balloons. Fellow employees shared cake and listened to Wahler talk about his experience. And then it was back to work as a director.
“It wasn’t overwhelming. I just wanted to get into a routine. To get life moving. Because life had been on hold. I wanted to get back to being part of the Homeport team,” Wahler said.