Airmen who make up the Air Force's small tactical air control party community have established an online memorial fund for the family of Lt. Col. Bill Schroeder, the squadron commander gunned down Friday at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas by an enlisted airman. The TACP Association has so far raised nearly $60,000 -- more than two-thirds of its goal -- since establishing the fund on April 9, one day after Schroeder was killed by Tech. Sgt. Steven D. Bellino, a former FBI agent and a pararescue student at the 342nd Training Squadron, who committed suicide after shooting the commander. TACP specialists, who serve with Army forces and Special Operations units to handle communications, control air traffic and provide precision terminal attack guidance for close air support, are one of the elite Air Force communities who begin their battlefield airmen training at Lackland.
"As the commander of the 342nd Training Squadron, Lt. Col. Bill Schroeder was responsible for training all Battlefield Airmen for the Air Force," TACP Association President Charlie Keebaugh told Military.com on Tuesday. "These are the operators that most people don’t realize the Air Force has. [including] pararescuemen, combat controllers, Special Operations weathermen and TACPs."
"Our goal is to raise as much money as possible for Lt. Col. Schroeder’s family, to ease any financial burdens and to allow them to grieve without any distractions," Keebaugh said. "The TACP Association has no paid staff, [and so] all donations to this fund will go directly to the family."
When the organization formed in late 2009 -- succeeding an earlier association -- the focus of helping former and current specialists was expanded to include aiding the communities in which they live. "Our community of warriors is small, and TACP has always been one of the smallest careers in the entire scope of the Armed Services," the group's website states. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the Lt. Col. Bill Schroeder Memorial Fund on the Fundly.com site had raised nearly $60,000 from just under 800 donors, including retired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. An undated photo on the website shows Schroeder with his wife, Abby, and two sons, Noah and Mason, at the beach. Schroeder, who was a Special Operations weather team officer, had been commander of the training squadron since June 2014. According to investigators, Bellino joined the Air Force after two years as an FBI agent. Responders to the scene on Friday recovered two Glock handguns near the bodies. -- Bryant Jordan can be reached at Bryant.firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.