Alumnus Receives FBI Medal of Valor
By John Chom ‘82
Radford University Alumnus Richard Schwein Jr. ’83 was honored in June with the FBI Medal of Valor, presented to recognize agents who show exceptional heroism in the line of duty. On hand for the ceremony at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., was Schwein’s father, who received the Medal of Valor in 1984. The Schweins are the only father-son recipients in FBI history.
“It is very humbling to be in the company of heroes,” said the younger Schwein, who received his commendation for securing the safety of 25 U. S. Embassy employees during a 2008 al-Qaida attack in Yemen. “Once the initial shock subsided, my training just took over. I really didn’t do anything any other FBI agent caught in a similar situation wouldn’t have done.”
The Yemen attackers were suicide bombers who used truck bombs, grenades and small arms against the embassy. Schwein’s duties extended to the follow-up investigation -- he examined the crime scene and took fingerprints from the remains of the suicide bombers. “We needed to determine who the attackers were associated with in order to prevent the next attack,” Schwein said.
He also had to give FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III a full assessment of the situation. When Mueller phoned, Schwein said, “I had to tamp down the urge to tell the director I had seen better days when he asked how things were going.”
Mueller was on the stage in June with the Schweins were honored. “The two awards really underscore the transformation of the FBI in the days since 9/11,” the younger Schwein said. “My dad’s award was for a violent confrontation with an armed fugitive who decided to shoot it out with the FBI. I was recognized for actions occurring in defense of an American Embassy during an attack by international terrorists.”