TSA canine training instructor awarded Bronze Star Medal for courage under fire in Afghanistan

Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Alex Schnell photo

The newest Training Instructor at the TSA Canine Training Center brings more than just a great resume to TSA.

Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell earned a Bronze Star medal with a “V” for Valor, for heroic achievement and courage under fire during a daring raid into enemy-controlled territory in Afghanistan on April 10, 2019.

Schnell’s commendation from the President of the United States says, “Sergeant Schnell's exceptional resolve and determination during four hours of close quarters combat with a barricaded enemy prevented friendly casualties and was key to the total destruction of the enemy.”

Schnell, a Multipurpose Canine Handler with the 2D Marine Raider Battalion, maintained his position just a few feet away from barricaded Taliban fighters while under fire. At his side was Bass, a seven-year old Belgian Malinois who facilitated the mission by helping keep the team safe.

Schnell, who has served multiple deployments in the Middle East and Africa, said U.S. forces rely heavily on their canine partners to conduct operations. “Multipurpose Canines are special because of their mission and multitude of capabilities in one canine,” he said. “Their core tasks are to detect explosives, track/trail individuals or groups, and apprehend enemy combatants.”

Schnell is humble about the award, deflecting credit to his fellow soldiers. “While on deployment all of your actions revolve around keeping those in your unit safe. You watch their back 24/7 and they do the same for you,” said Schnell.

“I am very honored to have had the opportunity to serve with some of the bravest men I have ever known. I was very proud to have served with them.”

At TSA, Schnell is responsible for training canines, instructing students, and conducting evaluations of certified teams in the field. He is assigned to the Problem Solving and Canine Attrition Replacement Team in San Antonio, where he started working in June.

“Working for TSA as a training instructor is a very rewarding follow-up to my military career, Schnell said. “I can continue to pursue my passion of training canines as well as impact the safety and security for travelers in America.”

Schnell is a highly respected, welcome addition to the Canine Training Center.

“Alex is a very humble and passionate professional who strives for nothing less than excellence in all that he does. He always sets goals for himself that some would say are unattainable,” said Patrick Yeoman, the Training Instructor Supervisor at the center.

“Alex is a true asset to the agency and the TSA Canine Training Center is honored, proud, and ecstatic to have him as a member of our team.”