Second Lieutenant Joseph Douglas Fortin was a native of St Johnsbury, Vermont and a 2004 graduate of St Johnsbury Academy. He was a standout baseball player while in high school and participated in many extracurricular activities. In his junior year, he participated in the National Youth Leadership Forum on Defense, Intelligence and Diplomacy in Washington D.C.
He entered Roger Williams University in 2004 and enrolled in the Army ROTC two-year program. The Roger Williams University ROTC program is a satellite program of the University of Rhode Island. He was a standout at basic and advance camps receiving high praise for his performance. During his senior year, he served as the Company Commander and Operations Officer for the Roger Williams University ROTC Detachment. Joey was recognized by all as both the formal and informal cadet leader on the Bristol campus.
In 2008, he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Roger Williams University and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Field Artillery. Immediately following his initial training, Second Lieutenant Fortin deployed to join his unit in Iraq during a critical period. Lieutenant Joseph Fortin served as the Fire Support Officer for the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment “Garryowen,” 1st Cavalry Division. He arrived at the squadron, stationed at Joint Security Station Istiqual, Iraq, in the early summer of 2009.
At that time, the mission of the 1st Cavalry Division was to protect the people of Baghdad in order to ensure the continued development of Iraqi civil capacity. Combined offensive operations provided the sustainable security that permitted continued Iraqi political and economical growth. As Iraqi civil capacity expanded, the emphasis on stability operations increased proportionally.
During that period, the 1-7th Cavalry expanded an already robust civil capacity effort across the squadron by placing even more emphasis and resources on stability operations. The improved security situation made it possible for the squadron and its embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team to focus on training the Iraqi local government officials to increase their capacity to provide Iraqi citizens with greater access to essential services.
Second Lieutenant Fortin and his platoon were responsible for protecting the local farmers and improving the infrastructure and assisting in developing the local governments of Rashadiayh and Fahma Nahias, both Sunni agricultural communities located northeast of Baghdad along the Tigris River. Lieutenant Fortin’s area of operation was approximately 125 square kilometers with a population of 100,000 farmers and their families.
Lieutenant Fortin developed strong relationships with the influential tribal Sheikhs in both Rashidiyah and Fahama and set up infrastructure repair projects which included repairing the irrigation canals and pumping stations that had been destroyed after Desert Storm. Lieutenant Fortin, in conjunction with the U.S. State Department, also set-up classes dealing with agriculture development and livestock care and breeding.
His small platoon was able to improve significantly the agricultural production of that area and provide the people with knowledge on new and improved ways of farming. His platoon also improved local small businesses in the area through administration of a micro grant program that helped to boost the economy.
On 23 August 2009, Second Lieutenant Fortin led a combat patrol to meet with Sheikh Mizer, Rashidiyah Town Councilman, to discuss planned and possible future projects for the area. At approximately 2300 hours, his vehicle, the lead vehicle in the combat patrol, was struck by an explosively formed penetrator (EFP), a sophisticated improvised explosive device (IED) while traveling north along the Baghdad-Diyala Highway. Lieutenant Fortin was killed instantly. The driver and gunner were seriously wounded. Second Lieutenant Fortin was declared ‘Killed in Action” on 23 August 2009.
The Sheikhs of Rasidiyah and Fahama attended Lieutenant Fortin’s memorial service, and they all expressed the tremendous efforts of Joey Fortin in improving the lives of all the people of Rashadiayh and Fahama. All of the Sheikhs mentioned how Lieutenant Fortin’s platoon had done more for their people in two months than any other unit or organization had done since the end of Desert Storm.
Second Lieutenant Fortin was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge for his leadership and heroism of duty in Iraq. Second Lieutenant Fortin’s performance of duty, exemplary leadership and personal courage reflect great credit upon himself, his family and Roger Williams University. The Roger Williams University established a Second Lieutenant Fortin Memorial Scholarship Fund in his memory.
Second Lieutenant Joseph D. Fortin was buried with full military honors in Mount Cavalry Cemetery, St Johnsbury, Vermont.