Image: Spc. John R. Fish
Fort Bliss PIO  /  AP
Spc. John R. Fish disappeared this week near Fort Bliss and was found dead with a single gunshot to the head.
updated 8/30/2007 8:12:57 PM ET 2007-08-31T00:12:57

Army officials have found the body of a 19-year-old soldier who vanished this week from a desert training range near Fort Bliss, and they say he apparently killed himself.

Searchers found Spc. John R. Fish, clad in his Army uniform, Wednesday afternoon while flying over a patch of rugged desert surrounding the Dona Ana Base Camp, about 30 miles from Fort Bliss in New Mexico, said Jean Offutt, a fort spokeswoman. His body was found about 1 1/2 miles north of the camp.

Fish suffered what investigators believe to be a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Offutt said. It is unclear when he died, but investigators suspect his body had been in the desert for more than a day, Offutt said.

Fish, of Paso Robles, Calif., was reported missing Monday morning when he didn't show up for morning roll call. Army officials later found a handwritten note on his bunk reading: "I have some things to take care of. I won't be coming back."

The ammunitions specialist with the 41st Fires Brigade, a field artillery unit based at Fort Hood in central Texas, vanished that morning wearing his camouflage uniform and carrying a squad automatic weapon. He was last seen at the southern edge of the camp.

His weapon was found near his body, Offutt said.

Served in Iraq
He served a yearlong tour in Iraq, returning in November, but was assigned largely non-combat jobs, said Lt. Col. Ina Yahn, who commands Fish's 589th Brigade Support Battalion.

Fish was introverted, Yahn said this week, but his extensive writings revealed to her a soldier with low self-esteem who might have been depressed.

His friends in the unit also described Fish as quiet but said his disappearance was a shock.

More than 1,000 soldiers spent nearly three days searching parts of the 230,000-acre desert training range that surrounds the camp. Fish's cap was found Wednesday about 1 1/2 miles north of the camp. A partially buried pile of ammunition, including bullets that would fit in the rifle Fish had, was later found about 2 1/2 miles to the west.

Yahn had said Wednesday she did not believe that Fish would have left the ammunition in the desert. No ammunition was missing from the unit's supply, she said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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