By Michael Molinaro, USAMU PAOJanuary 23, 2012
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 18, 2012) -- Showcasing courage, determination and inspiration, USA Shooting has announced the nomination of Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit to the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team contingent on the approval of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Olson is the first active-duty Soldier to be nominated for the Paralympic Games and first active-duty service member to ever be nominated to compete in shooting sports at the games.
Olson qualified for the team based on the International Paralympic Committee's two-part qualification system for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. On Jan. 15, the IPC announced that the U.S. earned a second participation slot per the minimum qualifying score allocations.
At the 2011 IPC World Cup in Sydney, Australia, Olson finished sixth in R3 (Mixed 10-meter Air Rifle Prone). Earlier that year, he finished seventh in R6 (Mixed 50m Rifle Prone) at the IPC World Cup Alicante and eighth in R6 at the IPC World Cup USA held on Fort Benning, Ga.
Deployed to Iraq in 2003 with 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Olson was struck with a rocket-propelled grenade while on patrol, resulting in the loss of his right leg from the hip down. After spending 18 months at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Olson received his assignment to the USAMU.
During his time at the USAMU, Olson has become a pioneer and advocate for Wounded Warriors. He has led the effort to establish a Paralympic team at the unit, enabling wounded warriors deemed able to continue to serve on active duty to showcase the Army in support of recruiting and accessions while enhancing its overall combat readiness through the unit's robust marksmanship training program.
"Sergeant First Class Olson is a trailblazer for our Army," said Lt. Col. Dan Hodne, commander, USAMU. "His unique Army story speaks volumes of the notion of 'ability' rather than 'disability,' and exemplifies professional Soldiers who all must be 'Army Strong.'"
Olson is also heavily involved with "Operation Proper Exit," where he aids other veterans recovering from injuries sustained during combat by visiting their place of injury in Iraq. In honor of his service and dedication to the country, Olson was awarded the Purple Heart from former President George W. Bush.
This is Olson's first Paralympic Games nomination -- he just missed the threshold in 2008, but has been a member of the National Paralympic Team for five years.
"I want to thank my family and friends for all the support, understanding and sacrifice; my coaches for the instruction and world-class mentorship; and finally, the U.S. Army for providing the opportunity to continue to serve and represent the USA on the world stage," said Olson.
Consideration for the expansion of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit for Wounded Warriors deemed able to continue to serve on active duty as marksmanship instructors and Paralympic shooter/instructors is currently ongoing as part of the Army's "Total Army Analysis."