Each year, The Southside Times recognizes a few honorable and loyal active duty military members and veterans from the Southside for our annual Faces of Freedom section. This year, we are featuring four individuals, all with different backgrounds and stories: Irina Muchler (Army National Guard), Steve Milbourn (Army), Dillon Sutton (Army) and Steve Wessling (Indiana Guard Reserve). Irina Muchler, an immigrant from Russia, raised her family before enlisting in the military; Steve Milbourn, current commander of Greenwood VFW Post 5864, served in France during the Vietnam War; Dillon Sutton, whose parents retired from the military, found inner strength from travels to Iraq and Kuwait; and Steve Wessling, a former teacher, discovered a purpose with the Indiana Guard Reserve in his 40s. On Independence Day, take a moment to remember those who are fighting or have fought for our country and thank those who currently serve or a veteran for his or her service.
U.S. ARMY INDIANA NATIONAL GUARD: Irina Muchler
By Nancy Price
Bargersville resident Irina Muchler developed an interest in joining the military from a young age, though life had other plans for the Russian immigrant.
“It so happened that my firstborn became my first priority and my dream for service was pushed back a few years,” she said.
Muchler was born and raised in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk. She graduated high school in 1983 and attended the Ural Institute of World Economy in her hometown, majoring in management and marketing in the metallurgy industry. In 2002, Muchler and her family moved to Michigan, soon relocating to Indiana. She was ready for a military career.
“I was privileged to sign my first contract for service in the U.S. Army National Guard on June 28, 2007,” she said. After attending basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C., Muchler traveled to Fort Lee, Va., for Advanced Individual Training (AIT) in logistics and transportation, with a primary MOS (military occupational specialty) in 92A (automated logistical specialist) and secondary MOS in 92Y (unit supply specialist).
Muchler credits Mikhail Houser, her recruiter, as a first mentor, with many more during her 13 years of service. “I had great NCOs and officers, from my first unit in the 1st Battalion, 293rd Regiment, Fort Wayne, Ind. to my present 38th Infantry Division, Company B, Indianapolis,” she said.
Muchler’s first deployment, from April 2008 to January 2009, was in Iraq; she was also in Iraq during her second tour of duty from July 2009 to April 2010; her third tour was in Kuwait, from July 2019 to May 2020. She is leaving the Fourth of July for her fourth tour of duty as a volunteer in Kuwait.
“I appreciate my country for the privilege to be in service, for the ability to be a small part of the strongest and advanced military world force,” Muchler said. “Hooah!”
ARMY: Steve Milbourn
By Angie Norris
Army veteran Steve Milbourn, commander of Greenwood Memorial VFW Post 5864, remembers a long life of serving our country in the U.S. Army.
When Milbourn was young, his family moved many times. Between 1952 and 1955 he lived and went to school in Illinois and Michigan. In the summer of 1955, his family moved to Indianapolis and he attended numerous schools, moving to several different locations. Milbourn graduated from Tech High School on June 4, 1964, but not before tying for first place in the pole vault at the city track meet and setting the Tech H.S. pole vault record at 18 years old.
Milbourn joined the U.S. Army on Dec. 7, 1964. “Life as a young 18-year-old soldier was tough,” he said. “During basic training, we ran everywhere we went. My basic training was completed at Ft. Knox, Ky. From there, I moved to Ft. Dix, New Jersey and took advanced infantry training. I left there and went to Ft. Benning, Georgia and in five weeks learned how to jump out of an airplane. To earn my jump wings, I jumped from a C-119 airplane five times.” From there, Milbourn went to Ft. Lee, Virginia and became a parachute rigger. He then traveled to Évreux-Fauville Air Base, France for 10 months. Milbourn’s primary military occupational skill (MOS) was light weapons infantryman.
Millbourn has received the Presidential Unit citation, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, RVN Gallantry Cross with Palm Citation, Meritorious Unit Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Sharpshooter Medal, Parachute Rigger Badge, U.S. Parachute Badge and Vietnam Parachute Badge. He was a Sergeant E-5 and completed 34 months in the U.S. Army before discharging and returning home.
ARMY: Dillon Sutton
By Nancy Price
Enlisting in the military can be a scary experience for many – the fears of being away from friends and family, strict rules and exposure to danger – the unknown.
Dillon Sutton, however, took to the Army like a duck to water. He grew up knowing what to expect as his parents recently retired from the Army. “I believe because of this, I felt a sense to serve,” he said.
Sutton, a resident of Bargersville, graduated from Whiteland Community High School and attended boot camp in Ft. Jackson, S.C. After basic training, he attended Ball State University to study secondary education history, minoring in military science and sociology.
“Two years after my initial training was finished, I reported to my first deployment to Iraq and Kuwait as an engineer,” Sutton said. “After coming home from that, I worked as a recruiter, and now currently work as a Battalion Medical Readiness NCO.”
Sutton, who’s been in the Army for more than eight years, has three military occupational specialties (MOS): 12N (horizontal construction engineer), 42A (Human Resources) and 68W (combat medic).
He deployed a second time to Kuwait in July last year, returning back home in March. “Between the two deployments the best memories are definitely the bonds developed with other soldiers,” he said. “It’s the random downtime when you’re shooting the crap with each other or making the best out of a bad situation.”
Sutton said he believes his experiences in the military have changed him as he’s more laid-back, with an “older soul.” “I will continue to serve, staying as a career solider. I believe the Army has bettered mine and my family’s lives even when that’s hard to see at times,” he said.
INDIANA GUARD RESERVE: Steven Wessling
By Angie Norris
A Beech Grove High School graduate is now living his dream in the Indiana Guard Reserve.
Cpt. Steven Wessling always wanted to serve in the U.S. Army or Indiana National Guard. He was set to enter the U.S. Army after graduating from college but suffered a knee injury which left him unable to serve. “I thought I would never have the opportunity serve in uniform,” Wessling said. “That’s why the Indiana Guard Reserve (IGR) was perfect for me.”
Later in life, after college and teaching at age 45, Wessling discovered the IGR, the all-volunteer subset of the Indiana National Guard. The IGR assists only in supporting domestic missions, things like security at large events, preparing for natural and manmade disasters and coordinating exercises. It is Indiana’s state defense force, commanded by the governor adjutant general of Indiana.
Wessling’s unit (Support Command) is housed in Tyndall Armory in downtown Indianapolis. “I have been in the IGR for 10 years this August,” Wessling said. “My MOS (or military occupational specialty) is A31, Military Police. Like most members off the IGR, I am qualified in military emergency management, which we train for through FEMA and the National Incident Management System. I have been an honor graduate of the Advanced Officers Course (AOC) and was selected the Company Grade Officer of the Year on 2017.” Wessling’s grandfather fought in World War I, along with two uncles who fought in WWII and several cousins who fought in Vietnam.
Wessling currently works in customer service for a small business in Greenwood.