Sunday, November 8, 2009

Britain Loses One Of Its Finest

Olaf in Combat.

Olaf in Combat.

03 November 2009

British soldiers at war are an incredible group.  Courageous, competent, and committed in very difficult conditions.  An email came today from London, from a BBC correspondent who has been to Afghanistan saying that Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid had been killed.

Olaf and his crew already destroyed many bombs just this single August morning in Sangin.

Olaf and his crew already destroyed many bombs just this single August morning in Sangin.

To see the article in the BBC was deeply saddening: Soldier Killed While Defusing 65th Bomb.

On a side note, the British soldiers are conservative.  Though this is not very important, it’s difficult to imagine that Olaf had only destroyed 64 bombs before being killed.  Just on this single mission, during which all these photos were taken, and during the surrounding few days, his crew must have destroyed several dozen bombs.  You had to be there.  By the time the mission in these photos happened, the crew was very experienced.

Olaf walking back from the latest bomb of many that day.

Olaf walking back from the latest bomb of many that day.

The day was blazing hot but these explosives specialists must concentrate.

The day was blazing hot but these explosives specialists must concentrate.

Just now, the team is clearing a British vehicle that was blown up and now booby trapped.

Just now, the team is clearing a British vehicle that was blown up and now booby trapped.

Hundreds of soldiers are being killed each year with bombs, and these men go into the thick of it.

Hundreds of soldiers are being killed each year with bombs, and these men go into the thick of it.

Courage is as common as boots among these soldiers, but Olaf stood out even in that company.  You could tell that Olaf knew his business from mean experience, and that he was ready for battle.  His mind was very quick.

His crew was competent and confident, and worked faster to clear bombs than any I had seen.  If not, the soldiers could never have completed this mission, because there simply were too many bombs.  They say all beekeepers get stung, but these are not bees.  These soldiers were facing an extraordinary number of bombs and booby-traps that are designed to kill the team.

Another bomb destroyed.

Another bomb destroyed.

According to the Oxford Mail,

“During the course of his tour, he attended 41 tasks, rendered safe 64 IEDs and attended 11 finds of bomb-making equipment.”

The married father-of-one lived with his family in Winchester. His wife Christina said: “Oz was a phenomenal husband and loving father who was cruelly murdered on his last day of a relentless five-month tour."

Olaf was lost on his last mission.  The enemy are blowing up civilians everywhere, and taking a toll on our folks.

Lt Col Rob Thomson, commander of 2 Rifles, consults will Olaf before destroying the next bombs.

Lt Col Rob Thomson, commander of 2 Rifles, consults will Olaf before destroying the next bombs.

According to the BBC:

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Thomson, commanding officer of 2 Rifles Battle Group, said: "Staff Sgt Oz Schmid was simply the bravest and most courageous man I have ever met."

"No matter how difficult or lethal the task which lay in front of us, he was the man who only saw solutions."

"He saved lives in 2 Rifles time after time and for that he will retain a very special place in every heart of every rifleman in our extraordinary battle group."

According to the Oxford Mail,

Lt Col Robert Thomson, the commanding officer of the 2 Rifles Battle Group, said: “Staff Sgt Oz Schmid was simply the bravest and most courageous man I have ever met."

“Under relentless IED and small arms attacks, he stood taller than the tallest. He opened the Pharmacy Road and 24 hours later, found 31 IEDs in one go on route Sparta. Every single company in 2 Rifles adored working with him."

They really did.  Everybody liked to see not just Olaf, but his entire great team.  The mission succeeded that day.  For more about the lives, and missions of these excellent soldiers, please read Bad Medicine.



As always, this dispatch has been reprinted with permission from the author, Michael Yon.

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