During the past 4 years, Will Schuler of Milford has been serving his country in the Delaware National Guard as part of the 1049th Transportation Company. Living his entire life in the Greater Milford Area, Will found himself stationed halfway across the globe in the deserts of Northern Afghanistan. Entrenched in the Islamic culture and constantly prepared for combat, Will was living what he describes as ‘another life’.
The 1049th Transportation Company was mobilized to Fort Bliss, Texas in 2010 to receive training for their future missions in Afghanistan. In country for 11 months, the 1049th Transportation Company was stationed in several military bases including Mazar-e Sharif and Dehdadi. As the unit flew into Mazar-e Sharif the soldiers had their first taste of what it really meant to be deployed overseas in the Middle East during a conflict.
“I remember stepping off the plane seeing the mountain ranges and feeling the driest heat I had ever felt,” recalls Schuler. “With blimps patrolling overhead and guards at all times there was the shock of knowing that the enemy was there all the time. You could not trust anyone outside of your unit because anyone could be working for the enemy.”
After the Delaware National Guard unit was trained in country they were transported to their home base in Dehdadi. It was from this location that the 1049th Transportation Company provided tactical and operation distribution, truck transportation and combat logistics patrol security to over 25 Forward Operating Bases and Command Outposts throughout Regional Command North and East Afghanistan.
On his first experience outside the base, Will facilitated a short haul with a replacement unit from Alabama and learned how to operate vehicles he would soon be very familiar with.
“I remember looking out my window and seeing exactly what you see on the news,” recounts Schuler. “The people were living in mud huts and did not have anything. That is when it really hits you and you know you’re a part of it.”
The company completed over 249 complex short and long haul missions over 216,000 miles of some of the most dangerous terrain on earth. On each transportation run Will and his unit had to be extremely cautious when coming in contact with Afghanistan civilians due to the difficulty of determining exactly who the enemy was.
“The Taliban were engaging the people that we were trying to help and many times it was difficult for us to establish any relationship with them,” stated Schuler, “We were helping provide supplies to villages but the Taliban knew these families and the individuals in them. For some, the Taliban became a provider and others were threatened if they did not comply.”
After eleven months in the Afghanistan desert, Will and the 1049th Transportation Company received word that they would be coming home to the United States. On May 28 the Formal Homecoming Ceremony for the Delaware National Guard soldiers from the 1049th Transportation Company was held in Harrington, Delaware. The event celebrated the safe return of all 164 soldiers in the unit.
Will is now attempting to return to his normal life back at home with his new wife. They have moved to Newark, Delaware so that Will can complete the last two years of his History Education degree from the University of Delaware.
“I am extremely excited to pick back up from where I was before I was deployed,” commented Will. “I would tell people to take advantage of everyday life. Whether its waking up next to my wife or seeing the grass in my front yard, I have learned to cherish the simple things.”