Battlefield Airmen pay tribute to fallen commander
By Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan, 23rd Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 20, 2016
AVON PARK AIR FORCE RANGE, Fla. (AFNS) -- More than 200 Airmen from the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing gathered here April 15 to mourn and pay tribute to Lt. Col. William Schroeder, who was fatally shot a week before.
Schroeder, the 342nd Training Squadron commander at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, was killed after an incident of workplace violence April 8. Schroeder was well-known throughout the tactical air control party community and served alongside many of the Airmen assigned to the 93d AGOW.
“As I was reading all the stories that have been posted about him this week, the three words that kept coming up were: leader, mentor and friend,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Ferland, the 18th Weather Squadron commander. “The last act he made as a leader was to take care of his Airmen, at all costs.”
Col. Joseph Locke, the 93rd AGOW commander, read an excerpt written by a friend of Schroeder’s, which elaborated on the incident and painted a picture of heroism.
“Bill shielded his first sergeant,” Locke said. “He got her out of harm’s way and then actively engaged the shooter. Bill went out swinging; his actions undoubtedly saved lives. His immediate, aggressive, and selfless response reflects the very essence of what warriors aspire to be.”
The memorial was held at the end of a weeklong exercise, which brought together TACPs from across the country.
“We’ve spent a week here refining combat skills and preparing to face an enemy in combat and yet, occasionally, we find that enemy here at home,” Locke said. “Bill faced it in an instant. I can’t think of a higher aspiration for each and every one of us to be, and I hope that each of us will have the courage that he had in that moment of truth.”
The ceremony ended with the playing of taps and memorial pushups, a tradition that honors the fallen in the TACP community.
“I think it’s important that we mourn, but I think it’s more important to pay tribute,” Ferland said. “Gen. George Patton said it best: ‘It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.’”