Major Shawn Stelzel, Class of 2004
Meet Major Shawn Stelzel, CHS Class of 2004 and U.S. Marine pilot currently serving in the Presidential Helicopter Squadron, also known as HMX-1 based in Quantico, VA.
Shawn was drawn to aviation from a very early age. He attributes his interest in flying to his relationship with his grandfather who was a pilot for the Army Air Corps during World War II. When Shawn was in the 5th grade he participated in a Civil Air Patrol program in Rockwall, Texas. This experience solidified his future career plan to become a military pilot. Shawn’s mother taught business and technology classes for ten years at both Community Middle School and Community High School. Mrs. Polly Stelzel says her son spent many hours after school in her classroom researching what it takes to become a military pilot. She said that he put together his plan and knew every step he needed to accomplish along the way. Both Shawn’s parents attribute his success to his laser-like focus on achieving his goals. “When he puts his mind to something, there is no stopping him,” said Mrs. Stelzel. “He’s worked very hard and we are so proud of him,” she added.
Current CISD Board President Mike Shepard’s daughter was a classmate and friend of Shawn’s. Mr. Shepard still remembers the extraordinary resolve and determination of the young Community Brave from Lavon, Texas. “I’ll never forget how from such a young age, if you asked Shawn what he wanted to do when he grew up, he would say ‘I’m going to be a pilot’,” said Shepard on a recent trip to meet Shawn while he was in Dallas on assignment. “It’s not surprising to me that he has been so successful and holds such a distinguished position,” added Shepard.
Shawn was a member of the National Honor Society, Who’s Who in America and lettered for the Braves baseball and football teams. After graduating from CHS in 2004, Shawn took just 3 ½ years to earn his bachelor's degree in Agriculture Economics from Texas A&M. He was commissioned into the Marines through Officer Candidate School in 2008 and earned his wings as a pilot in 2011. As an MV-22B Osprey pilot, Shawn served two deployments in support of the Global War on Terror before landing in Quantico, Virginia in 2015 after being selected to serve a three-year assignment with Marine Helicopter Squadron One. As an officer with HMX-1, Shawn’s job is to both fly and coordinate logistics for Presidential and VIP support missions. He has worked with the White House Military Office (WHMO) under both the Obama and Trump administrations.
As part of his Presidential Support Duty, he has flown or coordinated movements of the President and other international dignitaries attending diplomatic events in domestic locations such as Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and New York City. Internationally, Shawn lists flights in Switzerland, Germany, and England as some of the more memorable trips. The HMX-1 squadron is known for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities it provides, and Shawn says two of his favorite experiences include flying over the restricted airspace around Washington D.C. landmarks and landing on the lawn of Windsor Castle.
Promoted to Major in 2018, Shawn will be transferring this summer from the Washington D.C. area to Camp Pendleton in California, where he will serve with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364 of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, also known as the Purple Foxes.
In his own words:
If I’ve had any success it’s because of the strong support system surrounding me. My wife Cassie is the backbone of my life and without her I would never have been able to bring my dream into reality. She has raised our two beautiful children despite my long absences from home without complaint. My parents have also been huge guiding influences throughout my life and still are today. If I can impart anything on the students of CISD, it would be to surround yourself with positive influences like I have. Challenge yourself and believe that if you want something bad enough, you can achieve it too. Follow your passions and accept nothing less than your very best.
Above: on April 23, 2018, Shawn pilots an MV-22B at Mt. Vernon in support of President Trump's visit with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Above: on April 22, 2016, Shawn pilots an MV-22B (bottom right corner) landing on the lawn of Windsor Castle in support of President Obama’s visit with Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (below)
(Mar 3, 2015) Morón Air Base, Spain - U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Shawn Stelzel, left, a pilot with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa, demonstrates how to use a night vision device on an American aviator’s helmet for a Spanish pilot at an airfield near Morón Air Base, Spain, Feb. 24, 2015. The Spanish pilot joined Stelzel inside a Marine MV-22B as it flew with a Spanish helicopter for a series of night landing drills designed to improve the team’s ability to complete missions at night. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson/Released)