One of the Army's most prolific bomb disposal experts, who saved "countless lives", has been killed on the last day of his operational tour of Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Olaf "Oz" Schmid died trying to defuse a bomb in the town of Sangin in Helmand on Saturday.
Last night, tributes were paid to the 30-year-old, who was known not just for his extreme bravery but for his wicked sense of humour and self-effacing modesty.
"In all my time in the Army, I have never met, nor am I ever likely to meet, a man like S/Sgt Schmid again. He truly was a once-in-a-generation phenomenon," said his commanding officer Major Tim Gould.
S/Sgt Schmid's widow Christina, mother of his stepson Laird, added: "Oz was a phenomenal husband and loving father who was cruelly murdered on his last day of a relentless five-month tour. He was my best friend and soul-mate. The pain of losing him is overwhelming. I take comfort knowing he saved countless lives with his hard work. I am so proud of him."
Two of S/Sgt Schmid's colleagues in his tight-knit unit, 11 EOD Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, have been killed in Afghanistan in the past year. WOII Gaz O'Donnell and Captain Dan Shepherd both died trying to defuse improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
S/Sgt Schmid, a Cornishman, served much of his career in 3 Commando Brigade and was swiftly selected for promotion before transferring to the Royal Logistics Corps. After arriving in Afghanistan on 10 June, he saw action during Operation Panther's Claw, the British offensive to capture Taliban strongholds in Helmand. During the course of his tour, he had managed to make safe 64 IEDs.
Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Thomson, commanding officer of the 2 Battalion The Rifles, who recently returned from Afghanistan, said many of his troops owed S/Sgt Schmid their lives. "Every single company adored working with him. I adored working with him," he added. "No matter how difficult or lethal the task which lay in front of us, he was the man who only saw solutions. Superlatives do not do the man justice. Better than the best. Better than the best of the best."