Rapids native winds down military career
BY MIKE WARREN
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – When Col. William X. Taylor set down his UH-72 Lakota helicopter Sept. 11 at the Virginia Army National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston, Virginia, it was for the final time – for the military anyway. Referred to by close friends and colleagues as “Wild Bill”, Taylor is winding down a military career that has spanned more than three decades, having served in the National Guard of several states – including Minnesota, Texas and Virginia, as well as at the National Guard Bureau.
The Assumption High School graduate, and son of William T. and Mary Taylor of Wisconsin Rapids, began his military career in the Minnesota National Guard in 1988 and served until 1996, when he transferred to the Texas National Guard, where he served until 2012. While serving in Texas, Taylor did a tour to Iraq. “We ensured the error-free security for distinguished visitors in the war zone, which included Presidents, Prime Ministers, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Senators, Congressional members, senior Generals, USO entertainers, and more,” Taylor recalls. “It was an active period of time with elections, significant battles, major bombings, prison incidents, Constitutional referendum, Operation Steel Curtain, and more.”
Taylor returned to the U.S. in 2006. “When I came back from that deployment, they asked me what I’d like to do, and I said, ‘That counter drug thing looks pretty interesting, and I’d like to do that.’ So, they gave me command of a new security and support company, and put me in charge of the counter-drug on the full-time side for aviation,” he recalls. Taylor held that post for six years, before moving up to the National Guard Bureau as the Chief of the Aviation Branch (J32- CD) for nearly four years.
From there, Taylor applied for, and got, a position as Counter-Drug Coordinator/Task Force Commander with the Virginia National Guard in 2015. “I also picked up an aviation battalion command while I was doing that,” Taylor added.
Following that was command of an Army Aviation Support Facility and State Army Aviation Officer (SAAO), which directed all State aviation efforts, personnel, equipment, training, readiness, and safety. While State Aviation Officer, Taylor was also on the SAAO Executive Council helping to set future direction of Army and National Guard Aviation. Taylor currently serves as Chief of the Joint Staff.
Col. Taylor was supposed to be retired by now, but is spending one more Veterans Day on the job. “I was going to retire the end of September, but things moved slower on the military side than planned, so it looks like I’m actually going to go out the end of December now,” he says. When the final paperwork goes through, Taylor will have served 34 years, five months.
“It’s been very interesting,” Taylor adds. “I’ve had the best of assignments. I was on a path less traveled and much of it outside the public eye. In counter-drug, I was flying the southwest border. It’s interesting stuff, at a national level, in support of law enforcement, we were taking out billions of dollars of drugs off the streets. In Virginia alone, when I was running the counter-drug program while in support of law enforcement, we took hundreds of millions of dollars of drugs off the streets annually. Coming back to aviation at the end was great. That was why I joined the military to begin with, and it was a lot of fun.” By the time Taylor was through with his command, the Virginia National Guard’s aviation program had gone from 49th in the nation to No. 1. “There are a lot of good people. We just needed to make the right choices and put the right processes in place,” he adds. “It’s great to leave out in a position like that, leaving a legacy behind, and the top program in the nation. It’s a great feeling, and a good way to close up 34 years.”
Taylor also walks away having achieved a Bronze Star for service in Iraq (OIF-3, Camp Victory, Baghdad), a Gauntlet Award for maximum scores at Army Basic Training, and Distinguished Honor Graduate for highest academic average at AIT (Advanced Individual Training), as well as numerous other awards. “For me, it’s been a real adventure,” Col. Taylor adds in retrospect. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.”
Taylor’s brother Phil and father William are also veterans, both having served in the Marine Corps. Phil Taylor did five tours in the Middle East – four in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, all with the Corp. of Engineers supporting operations and the war efforts. The elder William Taylor is a Korean War veteran, and worked in public education for 37 years. Taylor’s nephew, Luke Henderson – another Wisconsin Rapids native – flew Blackhawks for the Army and did a tour to Iraq as well.
“We live in the greatest nation and it didn’t come free,” Col. Taylor adds. “There’s a cost to that. Veteran’s Day is a time to celebrate veterans who served to defend the freedoms and liberties we enjoy and that many take for granted. It is a time to celebrate those who defended basic human principle and volunteered for a cause greater than themselves. I pray that as a nation, we stay on the side of righteousness and in return, God blesses our country.”
As for his next chapter, Col. Taylor adds, “While I could fully retire, I can’t picture myself doing that yet. I have too much in me yet. I’ll decompress to start. I have an interest in Futures Command and future vertical lift. I could transition to the airlines or elsewhere, but at this point, I’ll just fly for the fun and adventure of flying. I’ll keep the skills up for now and I’ll probably pick something up just so I can continue to fly. The General did ask that I stay connected afterwards. I’m sure I’ll be available and help as called.”