Wil Willis is an American TV personality, Pararescuemen and former Army Ranger born on 13 February 1975, in Portugal. He’s known for being TV series “Forged in Fire” host.
Early Life and Education
Born the son of Jakob Willis and Mary Visiliki Malliaraki, Wil and his four siblings spent extended periods of time in a variety of armed forces bases due to his father’s military profession. The family moved to Texas when Wil was two years old, moved again to Florida when he was six, and then to California when he was eight.
There’s no information about Wil’s early education and teen years. It’s known however, he expressed his desire to become a soldier and give continuity to his family’s military tradition at a young age.
For this reason Wil enlisted in the Army after matriculating from high school in 1993.
Once he completed Basic Individual Training (A.I.T), Basic Airborne Course (B.A.C) and Ranger Indoctrination Program (R.I.P), Wil Willis was assigned to 3rd Ranger Regiment Battalion in October 1993. He served in the Army for five years until 1998, when he joined the Air Force after exceeding Pararescue Pipeline Course: ‘As an Air Force rescue man, you are a search and rescue recovery specialist. You’re one of 300 guys in the world that can do that job. The training is extensive. It requires attention to detail, integrity, courage, candor’.
Stationed in Keflavik, Iceland as member of Rescue Squadron 56th, Willis received a Sirkorsky Award for rescuing Squadron 299th. Next year Willis was stationed in Kirtland Air Force Base in Nuevo Mexico as a Qualified Weapons Instructor (QWI), condition that denoted his expertise in warfare.
Despite his many career achievements, Wil says friendships are the most valuable thing he obtained: ‘There’s a brotherhood or a sense of family within that. I appreciated that about the Army and the Air Force. The actual experience of jumping out of planes and all that is great while it happened, but what carries us into the future are the relationships we built while we were engaging in those activities. The most memorable thing is the people I met and became friends with.’
Willis was part of Air Force until August 2007, when he joined Rescue Squadron 308th to perform reserve duties for a year, officially retiring in 2008. After that he became an independent consultant on emergency trauma care for troops.
Wil Willis first appearance as actor was in 2006’s movie “Beerfest” as British Team member, followed by another small role as Angie’s husband in crime-movie “In the Valley of Elah” of 2007, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron.
Although his first roles were uncredited, Wil Willis obtained his first lead role in 2009, when he appeared as Whiskey Whiskey in Military Channel’s TV series “Special Ops Mission”, which showcased weapon experts finding their way through a variety of objectives.
In 2011 Wil also acted in movie short written by him “Waste of Time”, followed by his character Willis in short “Sovereign” of 2015.
TV Appearances – Host and Expert
Wil Willis appeared as expert in TV series documentary of 2005 “Rescue Warriors”, in episode Maroon Beret. In 2011 he joined “Triggers: Weapons That Changed the World” as its host and weapon expert. This show showcases Willis accompanied of other experts, as they value weapons and its historical significance: ‘We’ll cover everything from pistols to battle rifles, to assault weapons, to shoulder-fired rocket systems, to artillery pieces. It’s a really exciting series, and it was a lot of fun to shoot’.
Presented as a Documentary, dramatic representations of weaponry and military missions are often shown in each episode: ‘We do a lot of ballistics testing, and testing of the weapons systems either against themselves or against one another’.
Willis has clarified questions regarding source of arms shown in the series: ‘The weapons are predominantly from private collections. Our armorer Mike Tristano, has quite an extensive personal collection of weapons, which he allowed us to use for this series, which is great.’
Forged in Fire
Wil Willis is History Channel’s “Forged in Fire” host. In this show premiered in June 2015, bladesmiths contest to win $10,000 through forging blades. To the date, the show has been on air for seven seasons.
In a 2016’s interview with Inverse, Willis talked about the importance of the show and his job in it: ‘I have three judges that are all experts with the things we deal with. (…) My experience is in the intent and purpose of weapons as part of my military training and background. As far as the shows go, it’s rewarding to me to bring to light things that people didn’t know about certain aspects of the world around them’.
Although the show only has entertainment purposes, some aficionados have tried to imitate what is seen in the show at home with tragic results. In 2017 a New Yorker fan of the show tried using a barrel to forge a blade, his actions however, occasioned a fire that got out of control and burned down three buildings. The man named John Gomes had to pay a fine of $600,000 and was sentenced to one year in jail.
— KTLA Entertainment (@ktlaENT) July 7, 2015
Despite being a show in which the creation of arms is essential, “Forged in Fire” has received good criticism, and was described by Kristy Puchko of Pajba.com as ‘a powerful example of non-toxic masculinity’.
Wil Willis is a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting, graduated from New York Film Academy. This degree helped him pursue his career in TV.
Marriage and Children
Willis is married to visual artist and illustrator Krystle Amina. It’s unknown when the pair met, but they engaged in 2017 when Willis proposed to Krystle with a diamond ring in Valentine’s Day, finally tying the knot on 8 October that year.
In March 2020 the couple welcomed their first child together, a boy named Flash Orion Willis.
However, the young Flash is not Wil’s first children, as he’s the father of two teen boys named Caleb and Jacob from a previous marriage. Information about their mother it’s undisclosed though.
Resulting of his long military career along his earning for his TV appearances, Wil Willis has an estimated net worth of $500,000.
Wil Willis is a man of white ethnicity, with brown eyes and hair. His stature is 5ft 11ins (1.8m), and although his weight is unknown he has a strong build.
Willis was interviewed in “Last Call with Carson Daly” in 2011.
“Special Ops Mission” received bad critics for its use of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery).
Wil Willis is only credited for “Forged in Fire” first two seasons in IMDB (Internet Movie Database). However, this is an error as Wil has remained as show’s host for all of its seven seasons.
Willis was called “Pimple-Puss” by his Army’s team leader.
He owns a Chevy Nova 383, though the car was in a pitiable condition until it was restored by Willis.
Wil has good memories of bladesmiths participants in “Forged in Fire”: ‘Every single bladesmith that comes on that show is a character in it of himself. There are so many intelligent, wonderful guys with different backgrounds. But when you listen to their stories about how they gravitated to their craft, it isn’t that much different than anybody else. There’s a spark that ignites an interest and that interest turns into a hobby and that hobby becomes a profession. A lot of people can relate to that.’
Wil’s mother Mary was Greek.
Wil’s father Jakob retired from the Army in 1991.