Mark Millican Dalton Daily Citizen
Wayne Willard, who was killed Monday in a suicide attack in Afghanistan while working as a private contractor, was described by those who knew him as a humble law enforcement officer who left a legacy across the state and in war zones where America is involved in conflict and training missions.
“He was a real quiet individual, but he was assertive when he needed to be,” said Maj. John Gibson with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office, where Willard worked for many years. “Wayne was just an outstanding officer from the standpoint of having a tremendous amount of patience when he was dealing with the public. And his ability as an instructor — as far as his passing on his training skills to other employees — was just invaluable. I mean, we sent him all over the state at other departments’ request to do trainings, so he was really strong in that area.”
Gibson called Willard “a good friend” who came to work at the sheriff’s office around 20 years ago when W.G. Tallent was sheriff. Willard first left the department to go to Bosnia on contract work during that conflict, came back to the sheriff’s office and then went to Iraq. Willard left the Calhoun Police Department — where he worked since 2001 — to go to work for Dyncorp, a private security firm, in 2008, according to a press release from the police department. Gibson said his specialty was training police officers.
“He was one of these guys, you know, you always hear about (his ability) — he was really, really skilled — but you’d never know it by talking to him,” he said. “He never even acknowledged his capabilitites (but) the officers, obviously, who worked with him were very aware of his capabilities, who were around him day to day. When I first met him I was working in the drug unit for the Dalton (Police Department), and he was assigned to the drug unit for the county (sheriff’s office), so we worked together a lot initially. He was a former military (U.S.) Marine Recon(naissance) officer (and) he was a highly trained individual. I hated to hear that about him, I hate to see him go, but in a war zone things happen. The last time I saw him was three or four years ago. He was always there, a dependable guy.”
Calhoun Police Chief Garry Moss said outside of his experience with Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams and as a bomb technician, Willard had a sense of mission for training fellow lawmen.
“It was my understanding he was working at a police training facility (when killed), helping train Afghan police,” he said. “What I remember about him was his enthusiasm and energy. He wanted to prepare police officers … and keep them prepared because he had a sense about the way things were changing in the world and he wanted to make sure the officers he trained were prepared for the future. He was an outstanding officer.”
The Calhoun Times reported that U.S. Embassy officials said a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the police training center in the southern city of Kandahar. It did not disclose the nationality of the other person killed. Moments later, an attempt by two other bombers to enter the compound was foiled by security forces who shot them to death, said reports quoting a spokesman for the provincial governor.
Moss said Willard left behind a wife and two children. A spokeswoman with Thomas Funeral Home in Calhoun (www.thomasfuneral.com) said the mortuary is handling arrangements, but it will be a week before the body is received and service times are announced.