The Canadian hero whose leadership prevented countless casualties in Afghanistan – The Sherwood Park-Strathcona County News

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‘There was smoke and noise because the entire area was being chopped apart by enemy machine-gun fire’

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The National Post has launched Heroes Among Us, a special series on Canadian military valour, celebrating courage in the presence of the enemy. Over the coming weeks, we will propose 10 heroic Canadians who could be the first-ever recipients of the Canadian Victoria Cross, created three decades ago as a homegrown version of the Commonwealth’s highest award for valour. In conjunction with the True Patriot Love Foundation, Anthony Wilson-Smith of Historica Canada, Gen. (ret’d) Rick Hillier and entrepreneur/benefactor Kevin Reed, we will celebrate them all at a June 26 gala at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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In May 2008, then-Warrant Officer David Shultz was on his second tour in Afghanistan.

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He was in command of a team of Canadian Armed Forces members in Zhari district, just west of Kandahar. He was tasked with protecting officers who were visiting villages to meet tribal elders to discuss building schools and mosques, and potential threats from the Taliban.

His men, all travelling by foot, were headed towards another village for Shura (council), when the Taliban ambushed his troops.

“There was a lot of gunfire right off the bat,” said Shultz, in a 2009 interview with Maclean’s Magazine. “Because I know my troops and they know me, guys were already moving into positions where I knew I would need to put them.”

David Shultz in Afghanistan
David Shultz, of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, on patrol in Afghanistan. Photo by Handout

Shultz’s men gunned down the Taliban insurgent who fired the first shot of the ambush. Minutes later, they were hit hard by a heavy barrage from machine guns, AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, forcing them to take cover in an irrigation canal.

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“A lot of it goes back to the training that we’ve had,” Shultz said in an interview with Lookout Newspaper in 2015.  “And I would be lying if I said adrenaline wasn’t involved. You’re moving around pretty quick, and it’s confusing, just absolute chaos. There was smoke and noise because the entire area was being chopped apart by enemy machine-gun fire.”

More than a year later, in 2009, David Shultz was awarded the Star of Military Valour, Canada’s second-highest military medal.

“At the first sign of contact, Warrant Officer Shultz formulated and executed a flanking manoeuvre to neutralize the insurgent position. After securing the area and providing a situational report, the patrol was attacked again,” reads the citation. “Regardless of the risks, Warrant Officer Shultz plunged into intense enemy fire to assess the situation, direct his soldiers and engage the enemy. He repeatedly re-entered the danger zone to extract casualties and execute the patrol’s fighting withdrawal. His leadership and courage inspired his soldiers and prevented further casualties.”

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David Shultz with Michaëlle Jean
David Shultz receives the Star of Military Valour from then-Governor General Michaëlle Jean on Nov. 13, 2009. Photo by Sgt Serge Gouin

Shultz has said it was teamwork that saved lives that day, and others also “did their jobs.” That includes medic Cpl. Michael Starker, whom Shultz tried to rescue, but did not survive, and the LAV team that came to take all forces back to the operating base.

“Everyone was doing what they were trained to do. There was a lot of fighting and killing and dying. All of us were fighting for the lives of each other. If it hadn’t been for the soldiers working as hard as they did, I’d be dead right now,” Shultz told Lookout.

He said his military medal, Canada’s second-highest honour for valour, belongs to all of his team members.

“I’d never consider it to be an award for myself. I proudly wear it on behalf of all six platoon members, and believe the recognition has to go to the guys who don’t have names on a piece of paper or who haven’t received medals,” Shultz said. “I’d also like to thank my family and friends for their support, especially my wife and our kids. She is a very strong woman and has stood beside me during the good times and the bad.”

Shultz, in his 50s now, is the son of an Air Force captain and joined the army when he was 18.

He currently serves in the Canadian Armed Forces as a chief warrant officer in Victoria, B.C.

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