CID Marine awarded the Jim Kallstrom Valor Award for his actions in the 2021 Kabul Airport attack > United States Marine Corps Flagship > News Display


A massive explosion shakes the ground as 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 Tupua Rodriguez tries to orient herself to understand what is going on.

It was on this scene that criminal investigator Tupua Rodriguez entered on that fateful day, August 26, 2021.

“As soon as we get to the inner gate, everything explodes and you hear vehicles shaking and you start seeing people running,” Tupua Rodriguez said.

Tupua Rodriguez’s response to the situation that day not only saved lives, but earned her the Jim Kallstrom Award for Bravery, which she received in a ceremony at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., August 29, 2022.

Etching her name in history wasn’t something she imagined would happen when she began her deployment with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Tupua Rodriquez deployed as a Criminal Investigator with the 24th MEU in February 2021 and in July 2021 arrived in Kuwait awaiting operations in Afghanistan. While there, she prepared the military to search and assess people in support of their evacuation mission. As the sole criminal investigator NCO, she was later tasked with teaching service members how to properly search people and enroll people by biometrics.

“Because I had knowledge and training on how to properly search people, detainees or evacuees, I was tasked with teaching men and women how to properly search people,” Tupua Rodriguez told about his stay in Kuwait.

After a month in Kuwait, the 24th MEU deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan to assist with airport evacuation operations, Aug. 15, 2021. TupuaRodriguez continued to train and prepare Marines to search people while they received information about potential threats.

“When you’re called to do something, you have to do it.” sergeant. Leilana Tupua Rodriguez, Criminal Investigator

“We were getting a lot of information about improvised explosive devices [IEDs]but that day was different,” Tupua Rodriguez recalled.

On August 26, immediately after the explosion went off, TupuaRodriguez knew his mission had changed from research to saving lives.

She knew she had to intervene.

“[After the blast] The army medics came out and said, ‘hey sergeant, where do you need me’ and I just thought, how did I end up in this position? said Tupua Rodriguez. “I started separating the civilians and the Marines and I started controlling the civilians because they were going crazy.

“You have to adapt and overcome any situation. We expect you to.”

Tupua Rodriguez’s ability to control chaos helped her help other servicemen there at the time of the bombing. In total, they assisted and rescued over 500 displaced civilians and apprehended and treated 60 people.

His initiative and composure during crises, rare traits that were crucial in the Kabul bombing, were noted by his senior leadership in the Criminal Investigations Division of MCAGCC, his current duty station.

“Her ability to assess a situation, to analyze and to act, it’s a fluid movement for her and she does it,” said the master sergeant. Samuel Powers, CID Chief Investigator, 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 awarded annually in honor of Jim Kallstrom. Marine Corps Captain and Vietnam War veteran Jim Kallstrom distinguished himself during a twenty-eight-year career with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, culminating in his assignment as Deputy Director in Charge of New York branch. The Jim Kallstrom Awards recognize Military Police who, in the line of duty, best exemplify the ethic to protect and serve, as well as honor, courage and commitment and a genuine concern for the well- being from the Corps, other Marines and the community. they serve.

“This award is a testament to his character as an individual, his desire to help in every way,” Powers said. “She just cares about taking care of people and doing the right thing. Bravery is second nature.

“So in terms of who she is as a person, it’s her instinct to help, to fix, to do anything because doing something is better than doing nothing.”

Like many Marines, Tupua Rodriguez’s bravery was exemplified by his commitment to deploying in service to his country, even as some family members feared for his safety.

Originally from Bremerton, Washington, Tupua Rodriguez’s family was initially against his decision to serve in the armed forces. Despite this, she left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on February 10, 2014, not knowing that she would be watching history unfold seven years later.

Tupua Rodriguez added that her family are now her biggest support and she is extremely proud of the Navy she has become.

“She was part of the biggest evacuation operation we’ve ever seen and her role was instrumental in making sure people made it out alive,” Powers explained. “When you think of a Marine, you think of him. You don’t think of a female Marine, you don’t think of a male Marine, that’s what you think of.

“When you’re called to do something, you have to do it,” Tupua Rodriguez said.


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