Amputee graduates from Sniper School
June 24, 2014
FORT BENNING, Ga., (June 25, 2014) -- After an improvised explosion device severed Sgt. Joseph Mille's right leg in Afghanistan two years ago, the thought of returning to civilian life was unacceptable for him.
"I wasn't ready to be a civilian yet, it seemed boring," he said. "I was injured at only two and a half years in and (my career) felt incomplete."
Mille was one of 70 Soldiers who graduated from U.S. Army Sniper School Class 0714 June 20 at Long Hall on Harmony Church. Part of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, the Sitka, Alaska, native said the seven-week course was a goal that he was determined to complete.
"It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be with the prosthetic leg," Mille said. "This is a skill that I can take when I leave here and go to a line unit, but it was not expected of me (to continue my career) at all."
Mille was injured during the last month of his deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, Jan. 10, 2012. After a yearlong recovery process, Mille said adjusting to life with a prosthetic leg was easier than expected.
"It was like riding a bike for the first time," he said.
Staff Sgt. Matthew Fox, an instructor for Sniper School, said the requirements for Mille to complete the series of marksmanship, range estimation, target detection and stalks phases of the course were as rigorous as any other Soldier.
"On day one I thought it was going to be challenging for him," Fox said. "The misconception is you do a lot of shooting ... but there are physical aspects like rucking, firing positions in urban environment, rapid fire engagements and stalking. It can be difficult moving through the thick vegetation in Georgia, especially during summer months, but he handled it very well."
Mille said despite the intense heat and navigating through brush, he was able to keep up through every challenge.
"There's no need to compensate, it's like having a normal foot," Mille said. "I kept up on the runs and rucks and I was good to go."
Fox said Mille never expected to be treated differently, which was great motivation for the Soldiers alongside him.
"We're all competitors at heart, which is why we do this type of job," Fox said. "When you look at the guy to your right and you see he has one leg and he's doing everything you're doing, that's the time when you stop feeling sorry for yourself."
Mille said he plans to attend Pathfinder School in September before attending the Special Forces Qualification Course. He said Family and friends encouraged him to not give up on his recovery or his goals along the way.
"Things end up getting better," Mille said. 'That's what someone once told me and it turned out to be true."