Their training is arduous. In fact, the pipeline boasts one of the highest attrition rates among the suite of the Dept. of Defense’s various special operations selection courses, with 80 percent of airmen dropping out prior to graduating. The pipeline lasts for two years and requires prospective airmen to become proficient in everything from mountain climbing to deep sea diving, free fall parachute operations to entering and clearing an enemy compound.
Only the most resilient and focused Airmen successfully enter the ranks of the pararescue community, but the life of a PJ is more than meets the eye. Coffee or Die asked three different PJs what it means to them to be in pararescue and bear the weight of upholding their motto, “That others may live.”
Photo Credit: Airman 1st Class Jacob T. Stephens/DVIDS.
Brian Kimber was a PJ for six years. He explained that PJs are jacks of all trades, airmen capable of solving any problem. The training entails many factors such as emergency medicine, weapons, combat/small unit tactics, mountaineering, airborne/free fall operations, dive operations (open and closed circuit), hand-to-hand combat, confined space/collapsed structure rescue, survival skills, urban warfare, aircraft operations, and more.
“It was so varied that you couldn’t possibly hope to master them all, so you tried to be really good at, like, one or two things and at least competent at the rest,” Kimber said.
On top of the various areas of training they had to learn, Kimber explained that PJs are expected to be at a professional level of fitness. “For example, during the notorious (now different) 10-week selection course, there was this guy who would go run 20 miles on our day off — said he didn’t want to get soft,” Kimber said with a laugh.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski/DVIDS.
Kimber noted that unlike most other Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel, PJs are attached to other SOF units while deployed, such as the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, Special Forces, and Navy SEALs. When the units they’re attached to go home for training after deployment, PJs stand ready for civilian medical evacuation as well as search-and-rescue missions.
“My first real-world mission was when I was only about a week or so out of graduating, and I flew 400 miles off the California coast to rescue a guy off a tanker ship with stroke symptoms,” Kimber said. “So not only do you have PJs at the very tip of the JSOC spear, working with Delta/SEAL Team 6, some of those same guys then go back home and participate in those civilian rescue operations.”
“Being a PJ to me meant primarily helping people who found themselves in trouble. And to do that, you had to be the man with the plan; the guy who was prepared to go anywhere on earth, anytime, and be able to help someone,” Kimber said, and then gave an example in reference to his prior chief. “No matter who he was working with, whether it was some Rangers, some aircrew, some Marines, etc., he had that unmistakable ‘I know what the hell I’m doing’ vibe that commanded instant respect, even when on paper he wasn’t in the chain of command. So I always strove to be like that.”
Read the full article here: https://coffeeordie.com/what-it-means-to-be-a-pj/