Veteran Spotlight: Lt. Col. Steven Schultze
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It was an honor to interview this week's Veteran Spotlight. Steven Schultze served his country in the Marine Corps from 1997 to 2019, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
Growing up, he had a desire to give something back as his dad and uncles were Marines during the Vietnam War era.
Schultze enlisted in May 1997 and, he said, "the recruiter's eyes got real big when he found out I was a college kid who wanted to enlist."
He went to boot camp at the famed Parris Island in South Carolina and described it as "kind of like a root canal, painful at first but necessary to get better." He graduated in August 1997 and was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines at Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville, N.C., where he spent two years in the infantry, participating in cold and hot weather training.
Schultze was selected for the prestigious Enlisted Commissioning Program, then sent to Quantico for training to become an officer. He described his pride on being a Marine: "I enjoyed being part of a warrior culture among Marines, having been on both sides, officer and enlisted. One of the things I appreciated the most was that it didn't matter if a Marine was, black, white, male, female — we were all green. A band of brothers and sisters, and that mentality starts at boot camp and starts at Officer Candidate School."
After Quantico, his first assignment was in Hawaii with Combat Support Service Group 3 (CSSG-3). Here he was selected to be a platoon commander and rapidly moved up to executive officer then assistant operations officer. His biggest challenge? "Making sure I did everything I could to prepare my Marines for when we got the call to somewhere. I spent my days and nights to make sure they were prepared ... to make them better Marines and better young men and women."
He added that "people think we're just training men and women to fight our nation's battles, but we're training our men and women with important life skills."
Schultze was presented with the opportunity to go back to Parris Island to train recruits and he welcomed the chance.
"I was excited to work with the drill instructors to train the next generation of Marines. I felt like I had a small advantage as I had been a recruit at Parris Island," he said. "I had the privilege and honor of commanding some great Marines as a series and company commander."
When asked about being away for the holidays he described it as "something we all accepted, you miss a lot — birthdays, anniversaries — I missed my son's first steps," Schultze said. "You seek solace from your fellow Marines."
He was deployed in 2007 to Fallujah, Iraq, and again, in 2009, to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, both one-year tours.
"I went on a handful of patrols and only encountered a few incidents. I was fortunate, many others were not. I think about the Marines I knew who never made it. I think about them often ... they are my heroes," he recalled.
Schultze also commented on entertainment while being deployed. "The young Marines truly appreciated the people they knew. The Lt. Dan Band was great and they really loved Chuck Norris, the guy was amazing ... shook everybody's hand, every single one of those grubby, dirty Marines," he said with a chuckle.
He became quite serious when asked about his thoughts on service, saying, "I have no words to describe the honor I feel to have been able to serve alongside of our country's finest men and women. Men and women, who at the end of the day, wrote a blank check to America. To be able to do my small part to defend our great country, fills me with exceptional pride."
He is still giving back and is a part-time case manager with Berkshire Veterans Outreach Center in Pittsfield. Lt. Col. Steve Schultze, thank you for your service to our great country.
Veteran Spotlight is a special column by Wayne Soares that will run twice a month. Soares is a motivational speaker and comedian who has frequently entertained the troops overseas with the USO. To recommend a veteran for Soares' column, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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