Widow criticises Army shortages

Wife of Olaf Schmid said her husband was 'too exhausted to go on'
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The Independent Online

The widow of a soldier killed trying to defuse an explosive device on the last day of his tour of Afghanistan yesterday warned that there are a shortage of bomb disposal experts in the country.

Christina Schmid said that her husband, Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid, feared he would not survive his tour of Helmand because of the intense pressure being placed on explosive ordnance teams.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, Mrs Schmid said: "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to get it, there just aren't enough of them out there. There's just not enough hours in the day for the amount of IEDs [improvised explosive device].

"There's just a huge number of IEDs, it's a massive job for them to undertake, and a huge pressure for them, and that's what they're expected to do."

The day before the 30-year-old died he called his wife and begged her to come and get him in Afghanistan, saying he was too mentally shattered and exhausted to go on. The man who was cheerful in the face of adversity and was praised by colleagues for his relentless good humour was, she said, in tears and "in bits".

Hours later, on 31 October, his last day on the front line in Sangin before returning on leave, he died defusing his 65th bomb.

Mrs Schmid, 34, has vowed to honour his memory, and his comrades', by speaking out about the true nature of the sacrifices being made by the bomb disposal experts in Afghanistan.

"He asked me to make sure that people appreciated the work they were doing. These men are awesome and I made him a promise that I would remind people," she said. "Regardless of the conflict, they really are there to protect their country."

SSgt Schmid, Oz to his friends, was the third highly-trained high threat operator from 11 EOD [explosive ordnance disposal] Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, to be killed in Helmand in just over a year. He had already acted as pallbearer to one colleague and was devastated again 10 months later when Captain Dan Shepherd was killed. He wrote to his wife from Helmand: "Why did Dan go and I didn't? I had two identical jobs on the same day."

Soon after arriving in Afghanistan, he described how another EOD team had suffered multiple injuries, including traumatic amputations. "Staying alive is like a lottery. Patrolling the Afghan badlands is playing Russian roulette with your feet," he wrote.

Before leaving, he had warned his wife that the odds were not in his favour. "He was acutely aware of the risks. He said: 'Do the maths, the number of IEDs are completely against us'," his widow said. In one day he would deal with 31 IEDs.

Of the phone call SSgt Schmid made home just before he was killed, at the end of his five-month tour, Mrs Schmid said: "He was mentally and emotionally weary, broken. He had only had a few hours' sleep in four days. He said: 'I wish you could come and get me. I am hanging out. Please come and get me'."

Last night the 100th British soldier to die in Afghanistan this year was named by the Ministry of Defence as Lance Corporal Adam Drane. The 23-year-old soldier was serving with 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment when he was shot dead near Nad-e Ali in central Helmand Province yesterday afternoon. Colleagues paid tribute to L/Cpl Drane as a "popular, quiet and intelligent" soldier. He leaves a fiancee, Sian Goodenough.