Air Force Lieutenant Colonel William “Bill” Schroeder, Commander of the 342nd Training Squadron at the 37th Training Wing, gave his life fending off an armed and disgruntled Airman – the Airman, then took his own life. Lieutenant Colonel Schroeder is also being credited for saving the life of a First Sergeant who was also present on the deadly scene of workplace violence.
The incident unfolded at Joint Base San Antonio, inside of a first-floor office in building 147, Forbes Hall of the Medina Annex. There Technical Sergeant Steven D. Bellino, a Pararescue candidate, assigned to the 342nd was facing non-judicial punishment.
Around 08:40 Central Time, on Friday, Bellino initiated his assault by opening fire on the First Sergeant, but missed. When the shots were fired, Lieutenant Colonel William Schroeder was already in motion, and he selflessly charged, then grappled with Bellino; who fired four shots in their exchange – three landed in Lieutenant Colonel Schroder’s arm. Before the final, and fatal shot struck him in the head. Bellino then turned the weapon on himself.
Bellino was set to answer for an absent without leave (AWOL) incident, which followed his failure to meet the standard of a water endurance test. Bellino is said to have left training in his regards following the test; he had failed to notify his chain of command as to his intentions to terminate training and go home. From Joint Base San Antonio, Bellino went AWOL. He was next heard from while being brought into custody in Ohio and he was then returned to Joint Base San Antonio to face disciplinary action.
No medical or psychological reasoning has been made public to explain Technical Sergeant Steven D. Bellinos’ behavior, but he was regarded as disgruntled by his colleagues. Bellino also operated a website under the pseudonym “victorbaer2”, titled: “Battlefield Airmen Beware.” A majority of the site is restricted to a closed loop of approved users for the website, but the few public pages hint at Bellino’s opinion of the Air Force, as disillusioned.
Lieutenant Colonel William Schroeder, 39, of Ames, Iowa had commanded the 342nd since May 2014. He also commanded the 10th Combat Weather Squadron of the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Lieutenant Colonel Schroeder initially entered the Air Force in 1999, as a Weather Officer and had since been awarded a Bronze Star, two Joint Service Commendation Medals, two Air Force Commendation Medals, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and three Meritorious Service Medals. His sacrifice leaves behind a wife and two children.
Technical Sergeant Steven D. Bellino, 41, of Parma Heights, Ohio, had enlisted in the Airforce as a Pararescueman in June 2015. Bellino enlisted under the Air Force’s prior service guidelines which allowed him to advance in rank so swiftly. His prior service was with the U.S. Army, and he was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bellino left the Army honorably for a break in service and was then employed by the FBI for two years before seeking out the Air Force.
The 342nd Training Squadron is the dedicated entry-level training squadron for all future Battlefield Airmen; Pararescuemen, Combat Controllers, Special Operations Weather Airmen, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, and Tactical Air Control Party Airmen. The Training Squadron also assists with additional training for skills used by units within the Air Force Special Operations Command.
Brigadier General Trent Edwards, the commander of the 37th Training Wing, released a statement on the 37th’s official Facebook page: “The 37th Training Wing mourns the loss of our airmen and family members. Our primary focus at this time is to take care of the family and the men and women who are grieving our losses. A tragedy of this type is felt by each and every member, but we will pull together to help our own.”
“I worked closely with Lt Col Schroeder; my wife Vanessa and I knew his family. He was an amazing Airman, father, and husband. Our focus at this time is to take care of Lt Col Schroeder’s family who is here in the local area. He leaves behind a wife and two small children — we will care for and comfort them as best we can. We will also take care of the family members and friends who are grieving the loss of TSgt Bellino.”
Commander of the 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio, Brigadier General Robert LaBrutta, told the media: “The 502d Air Base Wing and all of Joint Base San Antonio convey our thoughts and prayers to the families who were impacted by this tragedy and our entire focus is to ensure they have the support they need to persevere during this very difficult time.”
Brigadier General LaBrutta then officially titled this unfortunate event as a “workplace violence incident.” He then noted that: “because this is an ongoing investigation, please direct further inquiries to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI).” The AFSOI is working in conjunction with the FBI to close this matter.
Featured Image – Lt. Col. William Schroeder, 342nd Training Squadron commander, U.S. Air Force photo.