CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – Chief Warrant Officer 2 Milledge Wilson’s list of past injuries reads like a one-way trip to medical retirement.
Gunshot wound to the left arm. Shrapnel wounds to the face. Grenade blast wounds to the stomach, face and left leg.
He sustained all of those during a bold attack on Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, while deployed with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2, out of Cherry Point, N.C.
As this story shows, the May 19, 2010, ambush made international headlines after more than a dozen insurgents breached the base’s wire and engaged in a five-hour firefight with U.S. forces. Nine U.S. service members were wounded, including Wilson and a fellow Marine, then-Pfc. Michael Craddock.
After the attack, Wilson, then a gunnery sergeant, discussed his injuries with Marine Corps Times. Then he faded into relatively anonymity, going through multiple surgeries and rehabilitation with the goal of staying in the Corps.
A few months later, Wilson put in an application to become a warrant officer while still undergoing physical therapy. He was accepted, and went to officer training at The Basic School at Quantico, Va., in January 2011.
“I was still hurting at the time,” Wilson said. “I was lucky to have some understanding leadership at TBS.”
Milledge hung in there. He graduated, and eventually became an avionics officer and ordnance officer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, an MV-22 Osprey squadron out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. The unit deployed this summer, giving him a chance to go back to Afghanistan for the first time since he was wounded.
The squadron is based here at Camp Bastion, the site of another bold attack by insurgents on Sept. 14. This time, two Marines -– Lt. Col. Chris Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell -– were killed, and nine other coalition personnel were wounded. Wilson was unharmed, however.
I met Wilson at VMM-161’s headquarters this week while seeking information about recent Osprey missions. In his new job, he focuses on quality assurance, making sure the Ospreys are ready for primetime before they fly. His affection for what he does is obvious.
“This aircraft goes into some of the nastiest places you could imagine, and it comes back broken,” he said. “We make missions every day, and it’s amazing that we can do so in this austere environment.”