MAKHMOUR, Iraq — When U.S. Army Capts. Joshua Pitcher and Scott Stafford were growing up together in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, they shared a common vision of joining the military. They would one day find their vision leading them around the world and simultaneously serving with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, also known as the Falcon Brigade.
Through supporting Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve’s advise and assist mission, which supports Iraqi security forces in their mission to defeat ISIS, the friends were reunited in Iraq upon deploying shortly after Christmas.
Pitcher recently took command of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, the “White Falcons,” while Stafford serves as a fire direction officer for 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, known as the “Black Falcons.”
The various battalions of the Falcon Brigade are spread throughout Iraq and have been providing support to the ISF in and around Mosul since before the offensive to recapture the western part of the city began in February.
Though covering the distance between their battalions was no small feat, being assigned to the same brigade did allow Pitcher the opportunity to travel to Stafford’s recent promotion ceremony and pin on Stafford’s new captain bars.
“Being able to be here with him is awesome,” said Stafford. “I can’t believe we ended up in the same brigade.”
According to Pitcher, they did everything together before they joined the military.
“We went snowboarding, fishing, hunting, and hiking and all that cool stuff,” he said. “We know everything about each other.”
He added that the men have plans to go fishing again right after deployment.
Stafford remembers Pitcher as having always been an adventurous go-getter.
“He would always be the guy like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that. Hold my beer,’” he said.
Though their shared sense of adventure led these two Kentucky boys to the military in 2007, they did not take the route they had originally intended.
“We were going to go be Air Force pilots and then go fly for a big, hot-shot airline,” said Pitcher. “Then for some weird reason we decided to join the Army instead,” he said with a laugh.
In the 14 years since they first began discussing their big plans, the men experienced both interesting and rough times, according to Stafford. The pair have been close friends since meeting in computer education class during their freshman year of high school. They even played on the soccer team together.
Given their history, it was especially difficult for Stafford to see his buddy in the hospital after Pitcher was injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
“Definitely a traumatic experience to see your best friend like that,” said Stafford. “You see guys on TV getting hurt, but when it’s your best friend that you grew up with, it definitely hits home.”
Despite losing part of his left leg however, the injury was not even close to being enough to stop Pitcher. He was back in action and jumping out of planes just 14 months later.
“He’s a very resilient guy,” said Stafford. “Everybody in this brigade has seen — he comes back from injury, he comes back to Bragg, goes to Jumpmaster school and also earns his EIB (Expert Infantry Badge) with a prosthetic. Being able to see what he’s (gone) through and be able to come back and just keep going — it’s definitely inspirational. I’ve a couple heroes in my life, and he’s definitely one of them.”
Listening to Pitcher speak, it’s clear that the sense of respect is mutual.
“He’s one of the best officers I’ve ever met,” said Pitcher. “He’s very, very good at his job as an artilleryman. He’s going to do great things.”
For now, those great things will be with the Falcon Brigade, as both men support the BCT in advising, assisting, and training the ISF during their ongoing offensive to defeat ISIS in Iraq as the battle for Mosul rages on.