Col. Willard A. Buhl grew up in Los Gatos, Calif., enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1981. As a reconnaissance man and team leader with Detachment 4th Force Reconnaissance Company in Reno, Nev., from 1982-1986, he earned the rank of sergeant. Commissioned in April 1986, he was trained as an infantry officer and assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, where he commanded rifle, weapons and heavy machine gun platoons, and a weapons company, deploying twice to the Western Pacific with Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs). Promoted to captain in 1990, and trained as an intelligence officer, he served as assistant regimental S-2 in the 1st Marine Regiment and as a battalion S-2 and Scout Sniper platoon commander for 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. In these billets, he participated in Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and UN Operations in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Buhl's subsequent tours include 22nd MEU assistant operations officer; commanding officer of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines; I&I of Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 23nd Marines; commanding officer of MCSFCo, Kevlavik, Iceland; assistant operations officer in I MEF future operations section during Operation Iraqi Freedom I; the senior military assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Asian & Pacific Affairs; commanding officer of the "Fighting Fifth" Marine Regiment, and most recently as a military fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.
Buhl is particularly proud of his service from 2003-2005 with the Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, the "Thundering Third", which included Operation Iraqi Freedom II and Operation Al Fajr, the clearing of the City of Fallujah during November 2004.
Buhl is a graduate of the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School (1993), Marine Corps Command and Staff College and School of Advanced Warfighting (2001-2003), and Marine Corps War College (2006). He also served as a faculty advisor at Marine Corps Command & Staff College, 2006-2007. He holds a bachelor's degree in History and International Relations from California State University Chico (1985), and a master's degree in Military Science and Strategic Studies from Marine Corps University (2002 & 2006).
His personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal; the Legion of Merit; the Bronze Star Medal with "V" and Gold Star; the Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star; the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal; the Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal; and the Combat Action Ribbon with Gold Star. He is married to the former Michaela Zanier, of Innsbruck, Austria. The Buhl's have three children.