By Jeffrey Blonder
May 20, 2020 marked the 11th anniversary of the death of U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte. A roadside bomb killed Schulte while traveling to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. She was only 25-years-old and the first female graduate of the Air Force Academy to die in combat. I met her briefly the day before she died and did not know her name until after she died.
In 2008 I served at Camp Mike Spann in Mazār-i-Sharīf, Afghanistan for 15 months. I was assigned to the base as a Naval Reservist and my mission was to be a Combat Advisor to the Afghanistan National Army. I was also the Senior Enlisted Leader for the naval element on base. At the time of my deployment, Camp Mike Spann was a small Forward Operating Base in Northern Afghanistan. One of my jobs was to assign personnel to augment the base security forces when it needed to leave the base for missions. Due to my position and seniority I was not required to go out on missions.
However, I decided it would not be right to assign others to tasks I would not do myself. I routinely assigned myself to the three types of duties in a convoy, which are the driver, gunner, and truck commander. On May 19, 2009 the security forces of the base had a mission to convoy to the nearby German Air Base in Mazār-i-Sharīf and return. This mission was critical as it was the way we got supplies and provided air transportation. I decided to put my name in as Truck Commander. The Truck Commander is the eyes and ears for the driver. This individual is also responsible for operating all the electronic gear. Although I served as a gunner on a recent mission, I chose to go out again for a personal reason. My wedding anniversary was May 20, and the German Air Base had a nice exchange so I thought I could get a gift for my wife, Cindy. The process of a convoy is fairly simple. You show up at a designated spot on base and are briefed on threat assessments and proper procedures in the event of an emergency. Since my base was small and due to my position, I knew most of the personnel on the base. When I got to the staging point, I noticed three unfamiliar faces. I was curious about why they were on my base so I went over and started a conversation with them. One of the people was Schulte. Our conversation was brief and I don’t think I got her name. The next day, a civilian contractor who I worked with reported that a contactor from his company and an Air Force person died due to a roadside bomb on a road I had traveled on several times. He did not know any other details. Two days later I was watching CNN, saw Schulte’s face, and immediately recognized her as being on my convoy two days earlier. I found out she was visiting my base’s Intel Department so I went to one of my roommates. He told me he had dinner with her the day before she was killed. This hit me hard so I started to research her life. Schulte was from St. Louis, Missouri and raised Jewish. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2006. This chance meeting with her reminded me how precious life is and we should cherish every encounter we have with people as important.
JWV’s online Post 77 is named after Schulte and Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal who died in Iraq on April 24, 2004.
Volume 74. Number 2. 2020