Awarded For Kabul Airport Attack Bravery
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Pedro Arroyo Jr.
September 27, 2022
A massive blast shakes the ground as the
Marines arrive at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul,
Afghanistan. Chaos erupts before their eyes as they attempt to
approach the airport gate. Vehicles shake and people scream and run
in terror as Marine Sgt. Leilana TupuaRodriguez tries to orient
herself to figure out what is going on.
This was the scene
criminal investigator TupuaRodriguez walked into on that fateful
day, August 26, 2021.
“Right as we get to the interior gate
everything goes boom and you hear vehicles shaking and you start
seeing people run," said TupuaRodriguez.
reacted to the situation that day not only saved lives, but earned
her the Jim Kallstrom Award for bravery, which she received during a
ceremony at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms,
California, August 29, 2022.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Leilana TupuaRodriguez, right, receives a handshake from U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Austin Renforth, Commanding General of Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), after receiving the Jim Kallstrom Award for bravery, supporting evacuations following the bombing in Kabul that took the lives of 13 service members in August 2021. TupuaRodriguez, a native of Bremerton, Washington, serves as a criminal investigator with Criminal Investigation Division, Provost Marshal’s Office, MCAGCC, where she received the award
on August 29, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Pedro Arroyo Jr.)
Etching her name in history was not
something she imagined would happen when she started her deployment
with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
TupuaRodriquez deployed as a criminal investigator with the 24th MEU
in February 2021 and in July 2021 arrived in Kuwait to standby for
operations in Afghanistan. While there, she prepared service members
to search and assess individuals in support of their evacuation
mission. As the only criminal investigator non-commissioned officer
she was then tasked with teaching service members how to properly
search people and biometrically enroll people.
had knowledge and training on how to properly search people,
detainees or evacuees, I was tasked with teaching males and females
how to properly search people,” said TupuaRodriguez about her time
After a month in Kuwait, 24th MEU deployed to
Kabul, Afghanistan to assist in the evacuation operations at the
airport, Aug. 15, 2021. TupuaRodriguez continued to train and
prepare Marines to search people while they received intelligence
briefs about potential threats.
"We were getting a lot of
intel briefs about Improvised Explosive Devices [IEDs], but that
particular day felt different," recalled TupuaRodriguez.
Aug. 26, 2021, immediately after the blast rang out, TupuaRodriguez knew
her mission changed from searching to saving lives.
she had to step up.
“[After the blast] Army medics came out
and asked, 'hey sergeant where do you need me' and I just thought,
how did I end up in this position?” said TupuaRodriguez. “I start
separating civilians and Marines and I start controlling civilians
because they were going crazy.
“You must adapt and overcome
any situation. You are expected to do that."
TupuaRodriguez’s ability to control the
chaos helped her assist other servicemembers there at the time of
the bombing. In total, they aided and saved more than 500 dislocated
civilians and apprehended and processed 60 people.
August 26, 2021 - U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Leilana TupuaRodriguez with a
small boy hours before a suicide bomb explosion at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, . TupuaRodriguez, a native of Bremerton, Washington, received the Jim Kallstrom Award for her bravery while serving as a criminal investigator with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, supporting evacuations during the bombing in Kabul that took the life of 13 service members in August 2021. (Courtesy photo by Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms)
Her initiative and cool composure
during crises, rare traits which were crucial during the bombing in
Kabul, were noticed by her senior leaders at MCAGCC Criminal
Investigation Division (CID), her current duty station.
ability to gauge a situation, to analyze and to act, it’s all one
fluid motion to her and she just does it,” said Master Sgt. Samuel
Powers, chief investigator with CID, Headquarters Battalion, Marine
Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Marine Corps Air Ground
Combat Center Twentynine Palms.
The Kallstrom Awards,
one for outstanding leadership and one for bravery, are presented
annually in honor of Jim Kallstrom. A Marine Corps Captain and
Vietnam War veteran, Jim Kallstrom distinguished himself over a
twenty-eight-year career with the Federal Bureau of Investigations,
culminating in his assignment as the Assistant Director in Charge,
New York Division. The Jim Kallstrom Awards recognize those Military
Police, who in the performance of their duties, best exemplify the
ethos of protect and serve, and honor, courage and commitment and a
genuine concern for the well-being of the Corps, fellow Marines and
the community they serve.
“This award speaks to her
character as an individual, her desire to help in every way,” said
Powers. “She just cares about taking care of people and doing the
right thing. Bravery is just second nature.
“So as for who
she is as a person, that's her instinct to help, to fix, to do
anything because doing something is better than doing nothing.”
As many Marines, TupuaRodriguez’s bravery was exemplified by her
commitment to deploy in service to her country, even as some in her
family feared for her safety.
A Bremerton, Washington
native, TupuaRodriguez’s family were initially against her decision
to serve in the armed forces. Despite this, she left for Marine
Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Feb. 10, 2014, not knowing she
would watch history unfold seven years later.
added her family is now her biggest supporters and are extremely
proud of the Marine she has become.
“She was part of the
largest evacuation operation that we've ever seen and her role in
that was instrumental, ensuring people made it out alive,” explained
Powers. “When you think of a Marine, that is who you think of. You
don't think of a female Marine, you don't think of a male Marine,
that's what you think of.”
“When you get called to do
something, you have to do it,” said TupuaRodriguez.
America's Best | America's Greatest
Heroes | Uncommon Valor
We The People
Answering The Call |
One Nation Under God |
Love and Pride of USA
National Will |
God and Country |
America, My Home!
Honoring The Fallen |
Don't Weep For Me |
Remember The Fallen |
Tears For Your Fallen |
Our Valiant Troops |
I Am The One
Answering The Call
The U.S. Marines |
Citizens Like Us |
Vietnam War Veterans
Spouses Serve Too