RMC experience helped shape Major Bill Fletcher into a remarkable leader
By Capt Paule Poulin
Seven Killed in Action, 18 Wounded in Action and more than 300 killed enemy. Such was the toll of Charlie Company Task Force Afghanistan during its seven-month counter-insurgency tour in 2006.
Major Bill Fletcher, who received a Star of Military Valour for extraordinary bravery in his actions during this tour, spoke about his experiences during this mission and summed it up this way: “Combat is combat and we learned some lessons.”
A decorated Afghanistan veteran who, by his own admission, “still leans on RMC people” in his career, Major Bill Fletcher targeted his speech, during the Royal Military College (RMC) Reunion Week-End Legacy Dinner, to the 70 Officer Cadets in the audience. When speaking about other RMC graduates he still encounters, he stated “I trust them. We trained together, we went to school together.”
Maj Fletcher told the RMC Cadets to be proud and not to take the RMC experience for granted. He namely declared that the ability to think critically, to navigate in a schedule with tight timeframes and the education he received at RMC, “basics that were implemented for me here,” helped him tremendously on deployment.
The infantry officer describes his Afghanistan experience as the “most professionally rewarding in my career,” because he commanded up to 200 soldiers, with tremendous success due to the teamwork involved. Maj Fletcher’s style is to lead from the front. As he says, leaders don’t need to always be in the back of their vehicles on the radio. As mentioned in Maj Fletcher’s citation for his bravery award, he exposed himself numerous times while dismounted and under enemy fire to attack reinforced enemy positions.
He offers that the Canadian tactics and doctrine were key, but he cautions that “Fear will always have a place on the battlefield.” Words of wisdom from a proven officer who were not lost on the young RMC students in the audience.
Maj Fletcher is currently a student himself at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, putting into practice this advice he had for RMC Cadets, “That hunger for knowledge, don’t ever let go of that,” which is quite fitting for a humble leader who leads from the front.
L’expérience du CMR a aidé à former le leader remarquable qu’est le Major Bill Fletcher
Par le Capt Paule Poulin
Sept soldats tués au combat, 18 blessés et plus de 200 ennemis tués. Tel était le bilan de la Compagnie Charlie de la Force opérationnelle Afghanistan durant sa mission de sept mois de contre-insurgence en 2006.
Le Major Bill Fletcher, qui a reçu l’Étoile de la vaillance militaire pour la bravoure extraordinaire démontrée durant la mission, a discuté de ses expériences durant ce déploiement et en a donné ce résumé : « Le combat est le combat et nous avons appris des leçons ».
Un vétéran de l’Afghanistan décoré qui, de par sa propre admission, « compte toujours sur les personnes du CMR » dans sa carrière, le Major Bill Fletcher a ciblé dans son discours, durant le dîner Héritage tenu durant la fin de semaine des anciens au Collège militaire royal (CMR), les 70 élèves-officiers présents dans l’auditoire. Quand il parle d’autres anciens du CMR qu’il rencontre encore, il mentionne : « Je leur fais confiance. Nous nous sommes entraînés ensemble, nous sommes allés à l’école ensemble ».
Le Major Fletcher a dit aux cadets du CMR d’être fiers et de ne pas prendre leur expérience au CMR pour acquis. À savoir il a déclaré que l’habileté à penser de façon critique, de naviguer avec un horaire chargé et l’éducation qu’il a reçue au CMR, « des items de base qui m’ont été inculqués ici », l’ont aidé énormément lors de son déploiement.
L’officier d’infanterie décrit son expérience en Afghanistan comme : « l’expérience professionnelle qui en a valu le plus la peine de ma carrière », parce qu’il était le leader de 200 soldats, avec un succès énorme dû au travail d’équipe de tous. Le style du Major Fletcher est de diriger de l’avant. Comme il le dit, les leaders n’ont pas besoin de toujours être dans leur véhicule collé à la radio. Tel que mentionné dans la citation du Major Fletcher pour sa distinction de bravoure, il s’est exposé au danger lui-même plusieurs fois pendant qu’il était à pied et sous le feu de l’ennemi pour attaquer des positions ennemies fortifiées.
Il affirme que les tactiques canadiennes et la doctrine étaient clés, mais il mentionne qu’ « il y aura toujours une place pour la peur sur le champ de bataille ». Des paroles sages de la part d’un officier qui a fait ses preuves et qui ont fait une impression sur les jeunes étudiants du CMR dans l’auditoire.
Le Major Fletcher est présentement un étudiant au Collège des Forces canadiennes à Toronto, mettant en pratique ce conseil qu’il avait pour les élèves-officiers du CMR : « Ne perdez jamais cette soif du savoir », phrase qui va comme un gant à cet humble leader qui dirige de l’avant.
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Through the generosity of Corporate; Individual; and Branch Sponsors, 83 cadets including six exchange students and four from Otter Squadron had an opportunity to wine & dine at the 10th Annual Legacy Dinner. In all, close to 250 individuals were in attendance to hear Guest of Honour and keynote speaker 19662 Major William Hilton Fletcher (CMR RMC ’95) S.M.V., CD. The mood from all those in attendance reflected that of a crowd that enjoyed a great evening of camaraderie and all shared in a great meal at the RMC Senior Staff Mess for a very worthy cause.
Legacy Dinner Organizer, Ms Kimberly St Louis, pulled out all the stops in ensuring the Dinner was a huge success and deserves a “tip of the hat” for her outstanding efforts.
The majority of cadets chosen to attend the Legacy Dinner came from a list of cadets who have taken out a Club membership. A special thank you to all the sponsors.
Photo by: Brad Lowe
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The Navy Bay Pavilion Project which is now officially named after 2364 Air Commodore Leonard Birchall moved a step closer to being a reality with the official sod turning ceremony as part of one of the many festivities over the Reunion weekend.
Pictured (L-R): Darren Cates, Director of Athletics; Al Roberts, Adjutant Old Brigade; Kathleen Birchall, widow of Air Commodore Leonard Birchall; BGen Tom Lawson, Commandant; John Plant, President, RMC Club / Foundation Board of Directors; Timothy Sparling, President RMC Club; Pierre Ducharme, Past President RMC Club and Peter Dawe, Executive Director, RMC Club.
Photo by: Brad Lowe
The ceremonial swords inscribed with the names of fallen captains Matthew Dawe and Nichola Goddard were presented to fourth-year cadets during yesterday’s ceremonies.; (From left) Reine Dawe, Tara Dawe and Lucas Dawe prepare to present a ceremonial sword engraved with fallen Capt. Matthew Dawe’s name to Officer Cadet Matthew Michael Tompkins in the Royal Military College parade square yesterday. Officer Cadet Alexandre Lessard was also presented with a sword engraved with fallen Capt. Nichola Goddard’s name.
222458 Captain Nichola K.S. Goddard Memorial Sword
Presented to the most deserving Artillery Officer Cadet in IV Year in memory of Gat Goddard who was killed in action in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan 17 May 2006. The sword was donated by H17417 Colonel the Honourable John R Matheson and is awarded annually.
22596 Captain Matthew J. Dawe Memorial Sword
Presented to the most deserving Infantry Officer Cadet in IV Year in memory of Capt Dawe who was killed in action in Kandahar province, Afghanistan 4 July 2007. The sword was donated by S150 Lieutenant-Colonel Peter N Dawe and is awarded annually.
‘Wear it with pride’; Two cadets given swords etched with name of fallen captains
Posted By Jordan Press; Kingston Whig Standard
Cadets present and past lined the perimeter of the parade square at Royal Military College yesterday afternoon and all stared inward at the future.
Across the square marched one of the fourth-year cadets, Matthew Michael Tompkins, dressed in navy blue and walking with the sound of applause around him.
In the centre of the square clapped little Lucas Dawe, the son of Capt. Matthew Dawe, who lost his life in Afghanistan on July 4.
Lucas, his mother, Tara Dawe, and his grandmother, Reine Dawe, handed the sword etched with Matthew Dawe’s name to Tompkins, honouring him as the most deserving infantry cadet in the graduating class.
Then, the rest of the Dawe family in attendance stood up and shook hands with Tompkins.
“Wear it with pride,” retired lieutenant-colonel Peter Dawe told him.
Afterwards, Peter Dawe said the ceremony was a reminder that at RMC, cadets are trained and know they may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.
“It makes us different than anywhere else,” he told the Whig-Standard. “That’s what this college is all about.”
Yesterday, hundreds of former cadets and their families joined current cadets around the Memorial Arch at the eastern edge of the Lasalle Causeway to remember those in their ranks who had died over the past year.
This year, they remembered Matthew Dawe, who died in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan along with five other Canadian soldiers. He was a member of the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
The college also remembered others, including retired major Duncan Smith, who was the oldest living RMC alumnus when he died at the age of 95 on Jan. 14 of this year.