Marine MSgt. Kevin Haunschild Receives Bronze Star
by U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Antonino Mazzamuto
January 23, 2023
"When we found out that the Taliban had
moved into the center city right outside of our tower, that's when
all hell broke loose," said U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Kevin W.
Haunschild, former Air Traffic Control (ATC) Mobile Team Leader with
Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-162 (VMM-162), 24th Marine
Expeditionary Unit. "Afghan aircraft began attempting to take off
our runway without listening to any commands from our air traffic
controllers. It was chaos; it looked like a bee's nest."
July of 2020, Master Sgt. Haunschild had assumed the Staff
Noncommissioned Officer in Charge position of his team, while
attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit for what seemed like
a typical deployment.
That all changed in August of 2021.
January 20, 2023 - U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Kevin Haunschild, a senior air traffic controller with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River, following
his Bronze Star Medal awards ceremony on MCAS New River in
Jacksonville, North Carolina. Haunschild received the Bronze Star medal for his actions as Marine Air Traffic Control Mobile Team Leader with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron-162 during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Image created by USA Patriotism!
from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Antonino Mazzamuto.)
"Leaving felt like any other deployment,"
said Haunschild. "It's never easy having to say goodbye to your
family, big or small, and not knowing how long you're going to be
gone for, knowing that you're going to miss birthdays, holidays, and
significant events in your family's life."
knew it, he was landing at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA)
in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 13th, 2021, with VMM-162 where he'd
soon experience the largest noncombatant evacuation operation in
military history. His mission would be to coordinate with Air Force
Crisis Response Group and Special Operations Command Team Kabul to
provide effective tower and ground ATC services at HKIA.
"When we got there, everything seemed to be going relatively
smooth," said Haunschild. "On Aug. 15th, that's when we got a call
from our colonel who told us to get our things and move into the
That day, civilian air traffic controllers spotted
a possible Taliban element conducting suspicious activity near the
main control tower Haunschild occupied. While this activity
occurred, an Afghan Cessna aircraft with a blown tire had to abort
its takeoff, which obstructing the airport's runway, ceasing all
aircraft movement while civilians crowded the area and fled to the
"A Marine, two Army Special Operation
soldiers, and I jumped into a pickup truck while Afghans were
running out of the aircraft back into the hangar," said Haunschild.
"We managed to attach ratchet straps to the aircraft and tow it off
of the runway."
After things seemed to be relatively
normalized, Haunschild had to go outside the wire to recover radio
equipment from a stranded Afghan air traffic controller. As he was
returning to his ATC tower, Haunschild started receiving enemy small
arms fire. Luckily, he arrived safely with the critical radio
Two weeks after arriving at HKIA, Haunschild and
230 other Marines were extracted for their eventual flight back
home. Haunschild returned home Sept. 22, 2021, reporting back to
Marine Air Control Squadron-2, Marine Air Control Group-28, on
Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in Jacksonville, North
“The fact that he was able to pull his team
together without much guidance or resources was amazing,” said Lt.
Col. Robert D. Barbaree III, commanding officer of Headquarters and
Headquarters Squadron, MCAS New River. “He shows up, he’s
professional, he cares about his Marines and makes sure the mission
is completed thoroughly.”
Haunschild, a Kingsville, Texas
native, graduated from Kaufer High School in Riviera, Texas, where
he would later attend Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College
before enlisting in the Marine Corps as an Air Traffic Control
Specialist in Nov. 2004.
“He is a truly selfless leader and
a great mentor for myself and the Marines,” said Sgt. Ian M. Chryst,
crew chief for ATC, MCAS New River. "He could lead me into a burning
pit and I’d follow him right in.”
For his extraordinary
actions at the airport, Haunschild received the Bronze Star Medal
during a ceremony held at the air station headquarters on Jan. 20,
The Bronze Star is awarded to individuals who
distinguish themselves by heroic or meritorious achievement or
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