Story by Lee Wilson
Sgt. Trey Wilhelm of the Wyoming National Guard pulls back a wooden chair in the dining room of his home. He sits down, resting his arms on the solid wood of the table and looks out the sliding glass door into his back yard. The wind is whipping about and rain is steadily falling. His twin sons play rambunctiously in the adjacent living room. For Sgt. Wilhelm, this is a good day to relax with his family. The poor weather delaying his many outdoor projects.
Today he is just Trey: an avid tinkerer and adventurer. Sgt. Wilhelm will reappear when he dons his uniform for his monthly drill with the Maintenance Platoon 924th Support Company. For now, he points out his new bonsai tree, planted in a clay pot that sits on a shelf in his dining room. Gardening is just one of his many interests. The room is filled with plants just starting to sprout from soil filled trays. He has planted peppers, jalapeños, tomatoes, lettuce and a variety of herbs, all waiting to be moved into the raised bed planters he built in his back yard last year.
Settling in, he offers me something to drink. This is the kind of hospitality one would come to expect of Trey. He’s tough as granite, but also kind and generous; always willing to help a friend. He radiates confidence, a quality honed by his ten years in the National Guard.
What made you decide to join the National Guard?
“I screwed around too much in High School, decided that was my only way to get into college. I went for it and it worked, got in, and got my college benefits, but I went into the oil field and never used them.”
What do you do in the National Guard?
“Look busy,” he chuckles. “There is a lot of pointing maintenance teams in the right direction. Helping them out with technical questions. Pushing training in the right direction when it comes time to do anything other than maintenance.”
How has your military career benefited your civilian life?
“It broke me out of my shell. I was really shy when I was in high school, school in general, before the military. Being forced into situations that are definitely outside your comfort zone allows you to grow as a person. When you’re comfortable as a person you can focus all your attention towards professional development. I’ve gained, in the last ten years in the military, a wealth of knowledge from all the leadership I look up to. It’s helped me to be, what I feel is, a decent leader. I’ve never had any quarrels with any of my subordinates. I credit that to all the leaders before me that have helped me grow. It gave me a better understanding of what work ethic really is.”
Trey’s dog Moxie wanders over to him from her favorite sleeping spot by the front door and rests her head on his leg. He scratches her behind the ear. Moxie is loyal family member and frequently joins Trey on hikes and even backpacking trips. When Moxie was just a pup, she joined him and several of his friends on a multi-day backpacking excursion into the Beartooth mountain range that lies North West of his hometown of Powell. Having grown up in one of the most scenic areas of Wyoming, his love of the outdoors runs deep. Moxie moves away from Trey and returns to her spot by the door.
What can you tell me about your deployment?
“I had just gotten started in my civilian career when I got the word we were getting deployed. That kind of scared me. I didn’t want to lose everything that I had just learned in the year previous to my deployment, but we got the word, so we started training and prepping for the deployment. We went to Fort Hood for mobilization in the Spring of 2009. We spent 9 months running convoy security missions from Kuwait to Iraq. Came back in the spring of 2010.”
What did you do after your deployment?
“I came home to my wife and six month old babies and decided we needed to set up shop, bought a house, and started the domestic life. Been doing that for the last 6 years.”
The rain lets up and outside a large pile of lumber is visible through the sliding glass doors. Wood pallets are stacked neatly behind the garage. Raw materials just waiting to be transformed into something new.
What hobbies do you have?
“Wood working. Rock carving. I’ve been a member of the Natrona County Rock Hounds Club for two and a half years. Geology, gardening, camping, hiking, backpacking, hunting, shooting, working on cars, RC aircraft. General life skills are my hobbies. I love to know how to work on anything and everything; my home, my cars, even myself. I try to maintain my equipment and myself to the best of my ability.
Trey always manages to find a balance. As a husband, father, provider and soldier, he lives a full compelling life. He rolls with the punches and finds the best in every situation. Once on a backpacking trip it started to rain, then sleet, then snow. Hiking down a steep and muddy path to get back to the campground where their vehicle was parked, he turned to his backpacking buddy and said “I like the way this sucks,” with a smile on his face.