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Iraq War vet served in 'Mortar-Rita-Ville,' guarded prosecutor who convicted Saddam Hussein

When Karl B. Schultz graduated from McKinley High School in June 2004, he kept up the family tradition and joined the Air Force.

And he knew without a doubt that by enlisting he would end up on the front lines in the War on Terror. That did not deter him. Schultz had been around the military his whole life and wanted to be part of the action.

When he was a boy, his father, who served with the New York Air National Guard, took him to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, which was something of a playground for the youngster.

"My dad was a fireman at the base and I'd play on the fire truck. I'd also go and see the airplanes," he said.

Schultz said he was proud that his father served with the Air Force in the First Gulf War and that his grandfather had served with the Air Force in the Korean War.

So on Aug. 3, 2004, Schultz made it three generations in a row when he began basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

"I had a lot of pride," he said.

With a military specialty in "security forces," he said, "it was 100 percent guaranteed" that he would be deployed to a war zone.

Schultz's job included not only military policing duties but protecting "aircraft and other high value assets."

In February 2006, he arrived in Iraq and was stationed in Balad, just north of Baghdad, at LSA Base Anaconda, which was unofficially known as "Mortar-Rita-Ville."

"We called it that because we came under rocket and mortar attacks at least twice a day," Schultz said.

A 2008 photograph of Karl B. Schultz in Iraq while serving in the Air Force. Ccourtesy of Karl B. Schultz)

If he was off duty and an attack occurred, Schultz said he would make haste for the bunker, but if he was on duty, he'd grab his gear and take up a defensive fighting position "in preparation for a possible ground assault on the base."

In one such attack, he said that after the shelling, a truck filled with explosives drove up to the base's north entry control point and blew up.

"But the driver detonated prematurely. That was followed by enemy small arms fire," Schultz said, adding that the three-pronged attack was repelled.

Attacks weren't the only kind of tension Schultz experienced during his first deployment to Iraq. He and other members of his unit were assigned the job of protecting Jaafar al-Moussawi, the chief prosecutor in the trial of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"That was probably one of the more scary experiences. The prosecutor was a high value target to the enemy. They wanted to assassinate him," Schultz said.

But the prosecutor was kept safe and succeeded in convicting Hussein of crimes against humanity. As a result, the dictator was executed by hanging in December 2006.

"I was relieved when the prosecutor had accomplished what he had needed to do and was gone," Schultz said.

He and other security forces also provided protection for the Air Force pilot responsible for the airstrike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most notorious al Qaida leader in Iraq at the time.

"The pilot flew an F-16 fighter jet and was given the coordinates of where al-Zarqawi was. Once he killed him, we had to protect him until he was sent back stateside," Schultz said. "It was classified at the time, but we congratulated the pilot. It was like somebody had scored a touchdown."

In December 2006, while home on leave in Buffalo after his first tour in Iraq, Schultz took a civil service test for police officers, hoping someday to become one of the city's finest.

He returned to Iraq for a second deployment in the fall of 2007, assigned to Camp Bucca in the southeastern part of the country.

"This was a prisoner-of-war base," Schultz said. "Our job was to patrol the perimeter and the local roads leading up to the base. It was to keep the bad guys in and the other bad guys out."

Just before midnight on New Year's Eve, Dec. 31, 2007, enemy mortars and rockets started slamming into the prison base.

"We were sleeping and woke up to six or seven loud bangs. My buddy and I grabbed our rifles and ran to our squadron headquarters and went out and took our posts," Schultz said.

British fighter jets were summoned, he said, "but by the time the jets arrived, it was already over."

Schultz remembers that as they were running to defend the base his buddy had cracked a joke.

"He said, 'Hey, Karl, I wonder what Dick Clark is doing right now,' " Schultz said of the reference to the longtime television host for New Year's Eve celebrations at Times Square in New York.

Of the attack, Schultz said the enemy was willing "to kill their own prisoners, hoping basically that they could get other prisoners out."

Another incident that stands out from his second deployment involved a prison riot in one of the compounds housing about 200 POWs.

"They set all of their belongings and their building on fire, except for their mattresses," Schultz said.

The prisoners, he explained, used the bedding as shields to absorb the non-lethal rounds fired at them. But mattresses proved futile against tear gas.

"We gassed them until enough gave up and we could force our way in and detain them," Schultz said.

At the end of June 2008, Schultz returned home and in August of that year was honorably discharged. His decision to take the Buffalo police exam had paid off. That same month he was sworn into the Buffalo Police Department.

A patrol officer in the Downtown District, he has served as a field training officer for the last five years.

He provides new officers with on-the-job insights and he loves the work.

"It's a chance to train new officers on how the job should be done, following the police manual and treating people the way that you would want your own family treated," Schultz said.

And speaking of family, Schultz is married to Detective Lucia Schultz, whom he met on the job.

"She was my first rookie that I trained," Schultz said with a chuckle. "I guess you could say the student has become the teacher."

A 2008 photograph shows Karl B. Schultz in Iraq while serving in the Air Force. (Courtesy of Karl B. Schultz)

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