On Friday, April 8th, tragedy struck at the Medina Training Annex of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in San Antonio, Texas. According to Air Force officials, at just before nine in the morning, TSgt Steven Bellino shot and killed LTC William Schroeder and then turned the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide. This came as a shock to the area, which has a large military and veteran community.
According to reports by the local newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, Bellino, who was in training to become a pararescueman, was facing disciplinary proceedings. Apparently, Bellino fled to his home state of Ohio after failing a crucial water-endurance test. He was later captured and forced to return to Lackland to face charges.
The incident took place in Forbes Hall, which is used to train future Tactical Air Control Parties (TACP). TSgt Bellino arrived at Forbes Hall to purportedly accept his punishment. Upon producing a weapon, LTC Schroeder immediately warned the TACP schoolhouse 1SG, who was standing next to Bellino, to run while he struggled to disarm the gunman. Bellino fired at the 1SG, but in the struggle with Schroeder, he missed, allowing her to flee. It was during this fight that Schroeder was shot four times, including a fatal shot to the head.
Apparently, Bellino spent a short stint with the FBI, serving as an agent in the New York field office. Prior to that, he served in the Army and deployed to Iraq, though details are sparse as to what unit, when, and where, exactly.
No doubt this is a strange incident, but one of sadly too many that have plagued this nation in the last two decades. In 2008, a soldier at Ft. Hood shot his LT and then committed suicide. Then, 2009 America experienced a rash of killings, including that of U.S. Army SGT Schlack—killed by fellow soldier SPC Baca while breaking up a fight—as well as the infamous MAJ Hasan mass killings, which killed 13 and left 32 wounded. In 2011, SGT Jason Seeds nearly murdered his wife after shooting her during a domestic argument. His wife apparently blamed his deteriorating mental health stemming from his deployment.
In June of 2012, SPC Ricky Elder killed his commander, LTC Tisdale, and then himself after reportedly facing legal troubles. He was allegedly diagnosed with dementia, though details remain unclear. Finally, in April of 2014, SPC Ivan Lopez opened fire on Fort Hood, killing three and wounding 16 before turning the gun on himself. SPC Lopez was being treated for behavior issues, including depression and anxiety, and was being evaluated for PTSD prior to the incident. The list is far deeper than this, as there have been nearly a dozen other shootings and killings across military installations and communities.
What seems to be the cause of such an increase in violent acts upon our military members? Some are certainly committed by lone crazies set upon personal crusades against the government. However, the vast majority are committed in-house—fratricide among our ranks. Some of it might be the fact that our military rolls have grown significantly since the beginning of the Global War on Terror, but such an increase can’t be the only factor. Is the overstretch of our forces (a mere one percent of our national population has shouldered the brunt of our longest conflict) become the cause to this continued violence among ourselves?
Whatever the cause, one fact is certain: LTC Shroeder faithfully adhered to the warrior values of our military, selfless service and courage. In doing so, he saved more than just the life of that 1SG, he saved countless lives within the halls of Forbes Hall. And though this incident will go down as a senseless tragedy, because of his actions, it was not a massacre. We honor your sacrifice, LTC Shroeder, and may Valhalla welcome you into its halls like so many of our fallen brothers.