By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – First Lt. Bart Fletcher was a rising star in his battalion's officer corps.
He had purpose, determination and "he was certainly a go-to guy," said Lt. Col. Mark Solomons, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
The battalion hosted a memorial ceremony for Fletcher on Tuesday at Fort Hood's Ironhorse Chapel. About 350 soldiers filled the standing-room-only chapel.
Fletcher died Sept. 8 in Killeen after being shot by a soldier in the battalion who then killed himself.
Like many of the soldiers in the battalion, Capt. Mike Doyle first met Fletcher after he arrived in Iraq. The division had already spent 12 months in the Middle East when Fletcher was sent to join Doyle's company as a platoon leader in November 2007.
Fletcher matured a great deal in just a month, Doyle said. After first arriving, the lieutenant said he was hoping to see some action. Doyle had to tell Fletcher that the men he was joining had seen enough action for several tours.
First Lt. Jeff Johnson was another fresh officer who arrived with Fletcher in November to Iraq. All joined platoons that had been deployed for a year "and we were just showing up," Johnson said.
Fletcher was more than ready to lead and stepped up.
"You've been here a year," Johnson quoted him as saying. "Take a break."
He and his men conducted scores of route-security missions. They weren't glamorous, Johnson said, but Fletcher never complained. He told his fellow lieutenants that he couldn't believe how good his platoon was and how hard the soldiers worked.
It was no small coincidence that Fletcher worked for Doyle twice, the captain said on Tuesday. Fletcher was itching for a spot as a mortar platoon leader, but was instead named as the Headquarters and Headquarters Company's executive officer – a much less "sexy" job, Doyle said.
Fletcher was serving as the company's commander at the time of his death. He was filling in for Doyle, who was on leave at the time.
It was back at Fort Hood that Johnson and Fletcher got to know each other better. Johnson said Fletcher was a "man more driven than anyone I'd ever met." Though serving as an executive officer wasn't the job he wanted, Fletcher had a take-charge attitude when no one else would and always led from the front, Johnson said.
He recounted a story from when they served time as observer controllers at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. It was Fletcher's job to observe a platoon leader going through training scenarios.
The platoon leader wasn't so bright, Johnson said, and reacted to a simulated roadside bomb in a way that would certainly cost lives on the battlefield.
Fletcher reported the platoon leader's performance and that individual was soon relieved of that position.
That was one way that Fletcher showed he never backed down from what was right, Johnson said.
"He didn't work for the officers above him," he said. "He served the soldiers below him."
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547.