FORT RILEY, Kan.—Soldiers here took the death of Sgt. Jake Butler personally.
"When we first got word—I don't think there was anyone who didn't know and like Sergeant Butler," said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Hallenbeck.
Butler, 24, of Wellsville, Kan., was killed Tuesday when a rocket-propelled grenade slammed into his vehicle in southern Iraq. He was serving as a cavalry scout with the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division.
"Sergeant Butler, he truly was a good ol' country boy," said Hallenbeck, who had been Butler's platoon sergeant here.
"He liked to listen to country-western music. He liked to fish and hunt. He drove a beat-up old pickup truck. He was just a real nice guy. He was a Kansan."
Part of Butler's job was to instruct his platoon on how to properly wear protective clothing used against nuclear, biological or chemical attacks.
"He was a great teacher," Hallenbeck said.
As an Army scout, Butler had the difficult and important job of reconnaissance. A scout often works out in front of his fellow troops. His job is to spot the enemy without being seen and to get information about the enemy to units that can deliver firepower. Although scouts often use Humvees at the beginning of their missions, they may leave their vehicles and hike with one or two other soldiers, sometimes for miles hauling heavy equipment.
"He was a smart kid, very tactically sound," said Staff Sgt. John Varney, of Miltonvale, Kan. He knew Butler when Butler was a private at Fort Hood, Texas.
"Butler was always the smallest man in his unit, but he was strong enough to do his job well," Varney said.
Butler is survived by his parents, Jim and Cindy Butler of Wellsville, Kan., four brothers, and several nieces and nephews.
Hallenbeck said there was a way to cope with Butler's death.
"As soldiers, we comfort ourselves by knowing that Sergeant Butler gave the ultimate sacrifice; that he was doing what he wanted to do."
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.