Capt. Willard was deployed to Djibouti as part of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. He died on a training mission in the Godoria Range area, when the CH-53 helicopter he was aboard crashed into the Gulf of Aden, in the vicinity of Ras Siyyan in northern Djibouti.
Capt. Willard was assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, Marine Air Group 29, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, New River, N.C.