Wil Willis is an American former army ranger, and Air Force Para-rescue man, actor, and TV host, whose claim to fame was through his American television competition series, “Forged in Fire,” which airs on History Channel.
Early Life and Family
Wil Willis was born on 14 February 1975, in Portugal, and was raised in a military family with his other four siblings. His father, Jakob Willis, was a US Air Force veteran, and due to his dad’s occupation, relocating to a different military base every two to three years while growing up was a normal thing. When he was two years old, the family moved back to the US and lived in Texas, relocated again when he was five years old to Florida, and after three years settled permanently in California. His father eventually retired from military service in 1991.
Little else is known about his family.
He matriculated from a local high school in North Carolina, and followed in his father’s footsteps by pursuing a military career instead of enrolling in a university. He received his training at the Advanced Individual Training and Ranger Indoctrination Program, and at the Basic Airborne School.
In October 1993, he enlisted into the 3rd Ranger Battalion of 75th Ranger Regiment of the US Army, and was on active duty for about six years up to 1998. He then joined the US Air Force Pararescue, and trained to become a Pararescue operative, assisting in giving medical treatment during combat, as well as on recovery missions.
He was also included in several humanitarian missions, and provided support to NASA astronaut landing recovery missions. He received a Sikorsky Rescue Award in 2001, and was promoted to Instructor for Weapons, Tactics, and Air Operations. He served in the US Air Force for roughly ten years, and before fully retiring from military service, spent another full year as an Air Force reservist in 308th Rescue Squadron.
To prepare for an acting career, he enrolled into the New York Film Academy to study acting and writing. After graduating, he was given minor roles in movies including “Beerfest” in 2006, and “In the Valley of Elah” with Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron in 2007.
When TV networks created reality TV shows with military concepts, producers decided to hire military veterans to make the show more authentic, instead of hiring actors to do it, giving credence to reality television. Due to Wil’s extensive experience in the military and his overall physical look, he was chosen to be featured in the TV show “Special Ops Mission,” which premiered in August 2009. He would carry out special operations missions in a simulated wargame scenario against opposing forces. It was similar to Mission Impossible series, in which Wil would be given a solo mission to complete by a couple of US Marine Corps Master Sergeants. He would be the one to decide whatever means possible to successfully complete the mission according to military rules.
The show lasted for a season, with positive reviews for its authenticity, and was originally aired in American Heroes Channel.
Wil was offered work by the Military Channel in 2011, with the TV show “Triggers: Weapons That Changed the World.” This time, along with Master Armorer Mike Tristano, he would be introducing and exploring legendary weapons and explosives that were used from different eras Again, Wil offered certain realism to the show, given that he was a former instructor in the weapons and training program in the US Air Force. It premiered in November of 2011 and lasted for two seasons, and was then picked-up and rebranded by American Heroes Channel in 2014.
It was also shown on the United Kingdom channel Quest.
In 2015, he was given his biggest break with the TV competition show, “Forged in Fire,” which airs on History Channel. He is the host of the show in which world-class bladesmiths would compete to forge bladed materials and so re-create iconic weapons, to be judged by weapon and warfare history experts. The show is on its seventh season with 158 episodes, and became so popular that some seasons aired more than 30 episodes, coming a long way from its first season with only 10 episodes. Due to its success, a spin-off series was ordered by History Channel entitled, “Forged in Fire: Knife or Death” in 2018.
In June of 2020, another spin-off series was created, and Wil was also tapped to host the show, “Forged in Fire: Beat the Judges,” in which previous “Forged in Fire” champions were called back to challenge the resident judges.
Wil married Krystle Amina, his long-time girlfriend, in October of 2017, in the popular wedding event venue 1909, in Topanga, California, after proposing to her in February of the same year at the Empire State Building. They had their honeymoon in an Hawaiian beach resort. His wife is a professional illustrator and designer. They have a son they named Flash Orion Willis, who was born on 7 March 2020.
Wil has two sons from a previous relationship, Jacob and Caleb, who were both present at the wedding; there is no information about the mother of the children. Both Wil and Krystle are quite private, and rarely talk about their personal lives. If Wil’s Instagram posts are to be believed, his children seemed to have a good relationship with their stepmother.
Wil is an active supporter of ReGroup Ranches Foundation, and even promoted a video about them. This foundation helps around 20,000 veterans as they go back into civilian life after serving the country. He also made a documentary, “The Transition Project,” in which he went around the country on a motorbike for 15 days, to help spread awareness about the challenges that army veterans face when they leave the military.
- Wil is fondly called by his fans as the human Swiss knife, for his skills and extensive experience in handling several weapons, including guns, knives, and explosives.
- He keeps a personal arsenal at home, such as SR-25 semi-automatic rifle, a Beretta M9 pistol, and bladed weapons that he forged including a folding kukri tactical knife.
- He is active on his social media accounts including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Most of his posts were from his personal travels with his family, and to promote his work.
- Wil’s the proud owner of two dogs, Luxy and Bambam.
He is 5ft 11in (1.80m) tall, weighs 176lbs (80kgs), and has an athletic build. He is Caucasian with black hair and black eyes.
Authoritative sources estimated his net worth to be over a $1 million, as of June 2020.