Face of Defense: Amputee Earns Expert Infantry Badge
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Armas
4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division
FORT BRAGG, N.C., Sep. 12, 2013 Army 1st Lt. Joshua Pitcher, a paratrooper assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was conducting a routine combat patrol in southern Afghanistan last year when he was injured by an improvised explosive device that took his right leg.
Army 1st Lt. Joshua Pitcher receives the Expert Infantry Badge from Army Col. Tim Watson, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, during a ceremony on Fort Bragg, N.C., Sept. 6, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Armas
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Following his injury, instead of feeling sorry for himself and basking in grief, Pitcher focused on returning to his unit and being with his troopers.
“I wasn’t going to just up and quit because I lost a limb,” he said.
“I wanted to get better and come back to be the best paratrooper that I can be,” added Pitcher, a former paratrooper and combat veteran.
Pitcher underwent 13 months of intense rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center before rejoining the 4th Brigade Combat Team four months ago. He now serves as a platoon leader in 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
While he was at Walter Reed, the Rineyville, Ky., native said, the other troopers there gave him the motivation to move forward and continue to serve.
“Many of those guys were more severely injured than I was, and I know that they would do anything to get back with their units,” Pitcher said. “I was blessed with the opportunity to come back here and show everyone else that I can do exactly what they can.”
Pitcher recently earned the coveted Expert Infantry Badge: an accomplishment that is significant for troopers with two fully functional legs, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Petrik, Pitcher’s platoon sergeant.
“It’s an absolutely amazing feat, and it’s a testament to his no-quit mentality,” said Petrik, who also wears the Expert Infantry Badge.
Everyone in the platoon is proud of Pitcher’s accomplishment, added Petrik, who claims North Sioux City, S.D. as his hometown. “He is a real hard charger and an inspiration to everyone in the platoon,” he added.
Pitcher said he hopes the inspiration that his troopers draw from his injury will help them overcome whatever pain they may feel.
“To any infantry soldier out there who thinks that he can’t earn the EIB, my question to him is: What’s your excuse now?” he said.
The Expert Infantry Badge test consists of an Army Physical Fitness Test, a land navigation course that has a day and night iteration, and a timed 12-mile foot march. Between those events, troopers must successfully complete 30 infantry tasks in a timely manner and to standard.
More than 600 paratroopers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team tested for the badge during these past few weeks, and only a small percentage succeeded.
Pitcher said the most challenging aspect of the testing for him was the foot march, as his prosthetic leg had trouble staying connected the whole time. But earning the EIB is essential for any leader in the infantry community, he added.
“As an infantry officer, you have to lead from the front and set the example for all of the junior troopers, so I felt that I needed to earn the EIB,” he said. “Earning the EIB shows that you can properly execute the basic infantry tasks that are required of any infantryman.”
Pitcher said those around him deserve a lot of the credit for his success.
“If anything, I just want to thank God, my wife, my family and my friends for believing in me this whole time,” he said.