What Is Air Force Pararescue?

Air Force pararescue operators, or PJs, are the military’s only special operations rescue specialists. Pararescue trains for any environment on earth, from mid ocean to urban combat to arctic mountaintops. Pjs are qualified experts in small team special operations tactics, military freefall parachuting, combat dive operations, small boat and vehicle use, submarine lockouts and high angle mountain rescue. Pjs are also qualified as full paramedics with extensive additional battlefield medicine training. The path to becoming a PJ is long and arduous.

Beginning at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, candidates must complete eight weeks of intense strength and conditioning training at the Special Warfare Preparatory course. After SW Prep, candidates face the challenges of the four week Special Warfare Assessment Selection course. The few that show the mental and physical fortitude to continue move on to the four week special warfare pre dive course. Then five weeks in the Special Warfare Combat dive course in Panama City, Florida. PJ students qualify on advanced scuba techniques and equipment, including team and night navigation dives.

Next, they move to Fort Benning, Georgia for three weeks of airborne training, followed by the four week military freefall course in Yuma, Arizona or Jamal, California. Then three weeks at the US Air Force Basic Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, training in survival, evasion, resistance and escape. After 25 weeks of intense training, they report to pear rescue school and begin learning how to be a PJ. PJ candidates receive advanced medical training and learn complicated life saving procedures. After nearly 40 weeks of medical training at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, candidates receive a full paramedic certification.

Finally, there is the 22 week pararescue apprentice course, learning field medicine operating in fixed and rotoroing aircraft, foist, repel, fast rope, high angle rescue, search, recovery dives, small unit tactics and marksmanship. At graduation, pjs earn a maroon beret with a flash that echoes their motto, these things we do that others may live.

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