Amputee overcomes physical obstacles to earn coveted Expert Infantry Badge
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — First Lt. Joshua Pitcher, a paratrooper assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was on patrol in southern Afghanistan last year when he was injured by an improvised explosive device that took his right leg from him.
4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Joe Armas
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,” said Pitcher.
“I wanted to get better and come back to be the best Paratrooper that I can be,” added Pitcher, whose father is also a combat veteran and former Paratrooper.
Pitcher, who is originally from Rineyville, Ky., underwent thirteen months of intense rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical Center before rejoining the 4th BCT this past May. He now serves as a platoon leader in 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
While he was at Walter Reed, he said that the other troopers there also 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,” said Pitcher. “I was blessed with the opportunity to come back here and show everyone else that I can do exactly what they can,” added Pitcher, who utilizes a prosthetic leg now.
Recently, Pitcher earned the coveted Expert Infantry Badge: an accomplishment that is significant for troopers with two fully functional legs, according to Sfc. Raymond Petrik, who serves as Pitcher’s platoon sergeant.
“It’s an absolutely amazing feat and it’s a testament to his no-quit mentality,” said Petrik, a fellow EIB holder.
Everyone in the platoon is proud of Pitcher’s accomplishment, added Petrik, who claims North Sioux City, S.D. as his hometown.
“He [Pitcher] is a real hard charger and an inspiration to everyone in the platoon,” Petrik continued.
Pitcher hopes that 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?” continued Pitcher.
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. In between those events, troopers must successfully complete 30 infantry tasks in a timely manner and to standard.
More than 600 Paratroopers from the 4th BCT tested for the EIB during these past few weeks and only a small percentage of those troopers earned the coveted blue badge when it was all said and done.
Pitcher said that the most challenging aspect of the EIB testing for him was the foot march, since his prosthetic leg had trouble staying connected the whole time. He feels that earning the EIB is essential for any leader in the infantry community.
“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,” said Pitcher. “Earning the EIB shows that you can properly execute the basic infantry tasks that are required of any infantryman,” added Pitcher.
Ultimately, Paratroopers like Pitcher are standard bearers for what can be achieved if one has the grit and determination to accomplish his or her goals in life.
Humble in nature and soft spoken, 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,” said Pitcher.
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