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This article is structured as follows:

  • Part 01: Background to US Air Force Pararescue Jumpers (PJs).
  • Part 02: Entry Standards and Applications.
  • Part 03: Outline of US Air Force Pararescue Selection and Training.
  • Part 04: Miscellaneous.


1.0     Introduction

Logo, AFSOC, Air Force Special Operations Command, US, Special Forces, USAFThis article provides an overview of the recruitment, selection and training process for the US Air Force’s Enlisted Pararescue Jumpers (PJ), typically known as Pararescue.


There have been significant changes in the recruitment and training of special warfare operators, as they are now known, as well as a change in some roles. Detailed information on the changes can be found at:

This is now a legacy page.


Pararescue, established in 1947 (Kendall, 2013), are one of four enlisted specialities along with three officer specialities that form what are known as Battlefield Airmen (Table 1). In brief, these Battlefield Airmen include:

  • Combat Controllers (CCT): Are specialists who focus on air-to-ground terminal control.
  • Pararescuemen (PJs): These are the guys you see in all the movies (think Black Hawk Down). They deliver battlefield trauma care, as well as personnel recovery and combat search and rescue.
  • Combat Weather Teams: Meteorological interpretation, which can affect how the battlefield is going to change and how commanders conduct operations.
  • Tactical Air Control Party (TACP): Are air-to-ground specialists, but they focus primarily on close air support (CAS).
  • Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape (SERE): Perform duties as the name implies. Not strictly a special operations role, but has significant input in training and exercises conducted by special operations.

These Air Commandos form the special operations element of the US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Special Operations Forces (SOF) community, which is the air component of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

The role of US Air Force Pararescue is to provide full spectrum Personnel Recovery (PR) operations. They work closely with Combat Rescue Officers and SERE personnel (Active Duty, Reserve and Air National Guard) who form the Guardian Angel weapon system. Their role includes:

  • Performing, planning, leading, supervising, instructing, and evaluating Pararescue activities.
  • Performing as the essential surface, air link in PR and materiel recovery by functioning as the rescue and recovery specialist on flying status as mission crew or as surface elements.
  • Providing rapid response capability and operates in the six geographic disciplines: mountain; desert; arctic; urban; jungle; and water – day or night – to include friendly, denied, hostile, or sensitive areas.
  • Providing assistance in and performs survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE).
  • Providing emergency trauma and field medical care, and security.
  • Moving recovered personnel and materiel to safety or friendly control when recovery by aircraft is not possible.

Consequently, Pararescue are experts in the reporting, locating, supporting, recovery and reintegration of isolated personnel. Further, Pararescue are part of the Department of Defence’s only ground combat force specifically organised, trained, equipped, and postured to conduct full spectrum PR, encompassing both conventional and unconventional combat rescue operations.

Logo, AFSOC, PararescueFrom boot camp to first deployment, a Pararescue may undertake up to two and a half years of training. The officer version of an Enlisted Pararescue is the Combat Rescue Officer (CRO).

Between 1947 and 2013, only 3,208 people had successfully qualified as a US Air Force Pararescue, with approximately 500 serving members in 2013 (Kendall, 2013). On average, only 15%-20% of personnel will graduate from the Pararescue training pipeline. For example, in 2007, only 69 of the 480 Pararescue candidates completed training (Tan, 2010); despite needing “178 PJs a year.” In 2015, only 26 graduated from the over 1,000 applicants who applied two years previously (News Mirror, 2015). In 2010, the cost of training a Pararescue was approximately $250,000 (Tan, 2010).

It must be emphasised that a candidate must be physically fit at the beginning of the Pararescue training process if they are to stand any chance of success. The course requires far greater expenditure of physical energy than is normally required in other peace time training. It is essential that candidates arrive fully fit, carrying no injuries and with a sound grasp of basic navigation techniques.

1.1     Aim

The aim of this article is to describe the fundamental entry requirements, selection process and training for personnel seeking to become a US Air Force Enlisted Pararescue.

1.2     Women and US Air Force Special Tactics

From January 2016, in accordance with current US Federal Government policy on the employment of women in the US military, service in the US Air Force’s SOF community is open to both male and female volunteers (Pellerin, 2015).

Women in the US military have, for a number of years, been able to serve in a variety of SOF-related roles, including:

  • Intelligence;
  • Military information support;
  • Civil affairs units;
  • Female engagement teams;
  • Cultural support teams; and
  • Air Force special operations aviation roles.

As of March 2015, approximately two-thirds of the roles in USSOCOM were integrated (Vogel, 2015).

1.3     Air Force Special Operations Specialty Codes

There are a number of Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) within the USAF special operations community, known as Battlefield Airmen, as outlined in Table 1.

Table 1: Air Force Specialty Codes for Battlefield Airmen
Officer Roles AFSC Code
Special Tactics Officer (STO) 13CX
Combat Rescue Officer (CRO) 13DX
Special Operations Weather Team – Officer (SOWT-O) 15WXC
Enlisted Roles
Combat Controller (CCT) 1C2XX
Pararescue (PJs) 1T2XX
Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) 1C4XX
Special Operations Weather Team – Enlisted (SOWT-E) 1W0XX
Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) 1T0XX
Source: US Air Force, 2014a; 2014b
  • For officers, there are three levels, with each level represented by the suffix: 1 (Entry); 3 (Qualified); and 4 (Staff).
  • For enlisted personnel there are five levels, with each level represented by the suffix: 11 (Helper); 31 (Apprentice); 51 (Journeyman); 71 (Craftsman); and 91 (Superintendent); replace the 1 with 2 for SOWT-E.
  • For SOWT-O, the C suffix represents special operations trained.

1.4     Guardian Angel

The Guardian Angel (GA) weapon system was established in 2001 and is a non-aircraft, equipment based weapon system employed by Combat Rescue Officers, Pararescue and SERE Specialists.

GA provides PR capabilities to the Combatant Commanders, and has a presence in a number of US Air Force Commands:

  • Air Education and Training Command (AETC);
  • Air Combat Command (ACC);
  • Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC); and
  • Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC).

Missions typically undertaken by GA include:

  • Extricating personnel from vehicle wreckage resulting from improvised explosive blasts;
  • SCUBA dive search for personnel swept away or blown into canals and rivers;
  • Augmenting US Navy SEAL teams or US Army Special Forces to provide embedded medical and technical rescue capabilities;
  • Inserting into active fire-fights to recover injured US Marines;
  • Providing casualty evacuation for injured local nationals;
  • Reintegrating American citizens taken hostage by enemy forces;
  • Military free-fall jump from an aircraft to injured personnel; and
  • Confined space searches through earthquake rubble.

Although GA rescue squadrons report to the US Air Force’s Air Combat Command, as the lead command, and conduct conventional rescue operations, a large proportion of GA personnel are allocated to AFSOC where they conduct special operations.


2.0     Introduction

US Navy SEAL Training (1)Information regarding the basic requirements for enlistment or commissioning in the US Air Force can be found by clicking on the links, which the reader is advised to read if not already familiar.

The US Air Force does accept direct entry applicants, i.e. civilians with no prior military experience, for the Pararescue branch. As a result, volunteers for Pararescue may be accepted from US civilians and US military enlisted personnel from any branch of military service to serve with the US Air Force’s Special Operations community.

Consequently, there are three recognised pathways to becoming a US Air Force Enlisted Pararescue:

  1. Enlist as a civilian;
  2. Enlist while in the US Air Force and apply for a transfer; or
  3. Enlist from another Branch of Military Service.

2.1     Special Operations Recruiting Liaison

Recruitment for Enlisted Pararescue is conducted through a number of Special Operations Recruiting Liaison Operating Locations (OL-C to O) throughout the US.

The OL’s fall within the 24th Special Operations Wing.

2.2     General Requirements and Eligibility for All Candidates

Subject to the requirements outlined below, all US Air Force enlisted personnel are eligible to attend the Pararescue training programme.

General Requirements for all candidates:

  • Be a US citizen:
  • Must be between the ages 17 and 39.
  • Education:
    • High school diploma or GED with 15 college credits.
    • Completion of a certified emergency medical technician or paramedic course is desirable.
    • Completion of Basic Military Training.
    • Completion of specialty training courses.
    • Maintain certification as a Pararescue and combat-ready status.
    • Certification from the National Registry for Emergency Medical Technicians.
  • Meet physical qualification for marine diving, parachutist duty and mission aircrew.
  • Maintain physical fitness and water confidence standards.
  • ASVAB score:
    • Mechanical: 55
    • General: 55/?44
    • ?AFQT: 50
    • Strength Aptitude Code: K (demonstrate weight lift of 70lbs).
  • Completion of a current National Agency Check, Local Agency Checks and Credit (NACLC).
  • Able to obtain a Secret Security clearance.
  • Pass relevant Physical Fitness Test (PAST or BAPFT, ROPFT: view Section 2.3).
  • Medical:
    • USAF Class III Flight Physical (Special Warfare Initial Clearance).
    • PULHES: all 1s.
    • Have normal colour vision; and
    • Have vision of 20/70 or better, correctible to 20/20.
  • Candidates are drawn from:
    • Re-trainees (i.e. US Air Force personnel who have completed basic military training and advanced training);
    • Prior Service (i.e. candidates re-joining the US Air Force or candidates from another branch of military service);
    • Air National Guard;
    • Air Force Reserve;
    • Non-Prior Service personnel (i.e. candidates with no previous military service).

2.3     Rescue Operator Physical Fitness Test

The Rescue Operator Physical Fitness Test (ROPFT) is the new name for the Physical Ability and Stamina Test (PAST), which it is replacing during 2016.

The ROPFT is utilised as an initial physical screening tool that must be passed in order to start training (and also during training where the standards become more stringent).

The AFSC’s identified in Table 1 undertake ROPFT tests that have slightly different minimum standards based on the requirement of each role, as well as different components.

On some documents the test is known as the Battlefield Airman Physical Fitness Test (BAPFT) and has four tiers: recruitment test; accession test; training test; and operator test (Scott, 2016). A number of the tried and tested components remain, but there are a number of new components. Scott provides a good initial overview of the (proposed) test. The test from another angle can be seen here.

With this in mind, Table 2 provides an outline of the ROPFT test (or Entry PAST) for the Pararescue Selection process.

During early 2019, the USAF will be introducing the first “career field-specific physical fitness standards — called Tier 2 standards.” (Losey, 2018). The USAF will establish career field-specific standards for all battlefield jobs (Losey, 2018).

You can view the updated fitness assessments here.

Table 2: Air Force Rescue Operator Physical Fitness Test
Event Component Criteria Time Limit Rest Period
1 Calisthenics
1a Heaves 10 or more 1 minute 2 minutes
1b Sit-ups 58 or more 2 minutes 2 minutes
1c Press-ups 54 or more 2 minutes ? minutes
2 1.5 Mile Run Non-stop 9 minutes 47 seconds or less ? minutes
3 Underwater Swim Remain underwater for 50 metres Pass/fail ? minutes
4 Surface Swim 500 metres non-stop 10 minutes 17 seconds or less N/A
Source: Lee, 2016


3.0     Pararescue Selection and Training Phases

The journey to becoming an Enlisted Pararescue is not easy, and training is rigorous and highly selective, but the courage and strength individuals will gain as a candidate will stay with them for their entire life.

The Pararescue training programme is the selection and training process for all candidates wishing to join the Air Force’s SOF community as an Enlisted Pararescue.

All candidates will undertake a number of distinct stages of training (Table 3), in which candidates are taught the fundamentals of Air Force special warfare through formal US Air Force schooling and on-the-job training.

Table 3: Pararescue training pipeline
Stage Programme Sub-course/Element Duration
Preparation Enlistment Process Variable
Basic Military Training 9.5 weeks
Assessment Pararescue Selection Course 1 week
Initial Qualification Training (IQT) PJ/CRO Development Course 2 weeks
PJ/CRO Indoctrination Course 9 weeks
Air Force Combat Dive Course – Open Circuit 6 weeks
Basic Airborne Course (scroll down to Section 3.2) 3 weeks
US Army Military Free-fall (MFF) Parachutist Course or US Navy MFF Course 5 weeks
USAF underwater Egress Training (UET) 1 day
Emergency Parachute Training ?
SERE Training 2.5/3 weeks
Special Operations Combat Medic Course (scroll down to Section 3.6) 36 weeks
Pararescue and Recovery Apprentice Course 22 weeks
Mission Qualification Training (MQT) Consists of initial familiarisation and combat mission ready certification, followed by unit directed duty position requirements. Variable
Continuation Training As required training that is necessary to maintain proficiency Variable
Source: Air Force Enlisted Classification Directory, 2014, p.81-82; CFETP AFSC 1T2XX, 2008, p.6

The skills and knowledge gained during this programme of training includes:

  • Mission planning and preparation; aircraft and load characteristics;
  • Infiltration and exfiltration;
  • Insertion and extraction;
  • Surface movement;
  • Objective area actions;
  • Debriefing and reporting;
  • Team leader actions;
  • Emergency trauma and field medical care;
  • Basic and advance parachuting;
  • Adverse terrain and mountain operations;
  • SCUBA and water operations;
  • NBC warfare defence;
  • SERE;
  • Night vision devices;
  • Firearms and munitions;
  • Communications and signalling;
  • Photographic documentation;
  • Legal responsibilities and ethics;
  • Vehicle operations;
  • Security, occupational safety and health, administration, and publications;
  • Individual fitness; and
  • Equipment qualification, inspection, maintenance, and accountability.

3.1     Training Hierarchy

The 342nd Training Squadron, commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel (OF-4), is a unit of the 37th Training Group and is headquartered at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

The Squadron is the home of all US Air Force Battlefield Airman entry-level training for PJs, CCT, SOWT and TACP candidates, and has a number of geographically dispersed units (Table 4) that deliver Battlefield Airman Career field training to candidates.

Table 4: 342nd Training Squadron Subordinate Detachments and Operating Locations
Unit Title Location Purpose
Detachment 1 Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico Pararescue/Combat Rescue Officer School
Detachment 2 Naval System Agency, Panama City Air Force Combat Dive Course
Detachment 3 Hurlburt Field, Florida Tactical Air Control Party/Career Air Liaison Officer School
Operating Location A Camp Bullis, Texas Expeditionary Skill Training (Basic Combat Convoy Course (BC3) and Combat Airman Skills Training (CAST))
Operating Location B Fort Benning, Georgia Basic Airborne Course, Jumpmaster, Ranger School and Pathfinder
Operating Location C Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina Combat Control/Special Tactics Officer, Special Operations Weather School and Air Force Jumpmaster
Operating Location D Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona US Army Military Free-fall School
Source: US Air Force, 2011

3.2     Pararescue and Survival Orientation Programme

There are two courses within the Pararescue and Survival Orientation Programme (NCSAS, 2016).

  • The 7-day Pararescue and Survival Orientation Course (PJOC) is for cadets wishing to experience PJ training and is facilitated by the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). PJOC, for ages 15 and older, provides experience and training in land navigation, survival techniques, rock climbing, rappelling and other various skills used in rescue operations. The course is delivered at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
  • The 10-day Advanced PJOC (APJOC), for ages 16 and older, is designed to build upon skills learned at PJOC and give cadets a more in-depth understanding of the Guardian Angel Weapon System (GA) of the US Air Force. APJOC is delivered at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. PJOC is pre-requisite for APJOC.

The Pararescue and Survival Orientation Programme is not part of the Pararescue training pipeline and is attended on a voluntary basis. Graduating from the programme does not provide a training place on any official US Air Force course.

3.3     Basic Military Training

Since February 2011, pre-screened candidates for Battlefield Airmen careers (including TACP, CCT and PJs) have had a BATTLE plan in place during their basic military training (BMT). BATTLE being an acronym for Battlefield Airmen Technical Training Liaison Element (Joseph, 2011).

BATTLE training was incorporated for 320th and 331st Training Squadron trainees who receive the additional training (weeks 2 to 7) during BMT to better prepare them for their upcoming training/jobs.

Following BMT graduation, the journey continues at the 342nd Training Squadron, home to all Air Force Battlefield Airmen entry-level training. The curriculum includes Pararescue Indoctrination, TACP and PJ Development and the Combat Control Selection courses.

3.4     PJ/CRO Selection Process

US Army Ranger, 75th Ranger Regiment (2)The selection process screens an applicant for mental fortitude and physical capabilities, while preparing candidates for future duties as a Pararescue. Thus the selection process reduces the training attrition rate by ensuring that candidates selected are equipped to succeed in the specific mental and physical challenges of the training pipeline.

The Pararescue/Combat Rescue Officer Selection Course is overseen by the 342nd Training Squadron/Combat Training Flight at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

The course is 10 days in duration and focuses on physical fitness with classes in sports physiology, nutrition, basic exercises, CCT history and fundamentals.

Candidates are physically screened and have to pass tests in seven events to move on (Table 1): Press-ups, sit-ups, heaves, 1.5-mile run, 500-metre swim, 4-mile loaded march and an obstacle course.

In 2003, the US Air Force began planning the Common Battlefield Airmen Training (CBAT) programme (GAO, 2009) for designated enlisted personnel. Initially, the CBAT programme had two goals:

  1. Annually provide standardised training to approximately 1,400 airmen within seven ‘battlefield airmen’ occupational specialties; and
  2. Assist in retaining airmen within these seven occupations.

However, after a review following a change in leadership, it was decided to cancel the CBAT programme in August 2008.

By January 2009, the US Air Force had begun developing another training programme (the Battlefield Airmen Screening Course) that would mirror the CBATs programme’s original goal of providing standardised combat skills training to personnel in the seven Battlefield Airmen occupations. The US Air Force, in 2009, did not expect the course to be implemented before 2013 due to an inability to request formal funding for the new course until 2012. It was noted, at the time, that the US Air Force had not yet validated the need for such a programme, but would do so (GAO, 2009).

In the summer of 2010, candidates faced another obstacle during their selection process, the Emotional Quotient Indicator (Tan, 2010); designed to “get a sense of how well they will do in training.”

Since 2014 (or possibly 2015), Battlefield Airmen candidates have faced a new screening process. Traditionally, candidates were selected on cognitive and physical tests (Acosta et al., 2014). Now candidates are assessed on:

  • Cognitive (using ASVAB);
  • Physical (using PAST or PFT);
  • Personality (using TAPAS: Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System); “minimum score of 60 on PJ selection model” (AFECD, 2014, p.82).

The three scores are combined and provide a raw likelihood of training success. Early research by Acosta and colleagues (2014) suggest a correlation between a high percentile score and likelihood of completing training.

3.5     PJ/CRO Development Course

US Army Special Forces, Green Beret (5)The Pararescue/Combat Rescue Officer Development Course is delivered by the 342nd Training Squadron, located at Lackland Air Force Base Annex in Texas (CFETP, 2008).

The 2-week course trains future Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officers through introductory physical and mental conditioning and development. Training includes mentoring and coaching in:

  • Calisthenics (i.e. bodyweight) training.
  • Running training.
  • Water confidence, swim training and lifesaving techniques which may include:
    • 5x 25 metre underwater swims.
    • 2x 15 metre mask/snorkel recovery.
    • Buddy breathing mild.
    • 2x treading water for 30 seconds.
    • 500 metre swim, with fins.
  • PJ/CRO history, roles and responsibilities/career field duties/missions.
  • Team building skills.
  • Sports nutrition.
  • Exercise physiology.
  • Stress resilience or psychological enhancement training.

The PJ/CRO Development course is a prerequisite to the PJ/CRO Indoctrination course.

3.6     PJ/CRO Indoctrination Course

US Army Special Forces, Green Beret (7)There is a Battlefield Airman Development Course (BADC) which candidates undertake (at Lakeland Air Force Base in Texas) prior to entry in a Battlefield Airmen training pipeline (USA Jobs, 2014), although it would not apply to the Pararescue Indoctrination Course (Tan, 2010).

The Pararescue/Combat Rescue Officer Indoctrination Course is delivered by the 342nd Training Squadron, located at Lackland Air Force Base Annex in Texas (CFETP, 2008).

The course is supervised by the Commandant PJ/CRO Indoctrination course, a Master Sergeant, and trains approximately 600 candidates per year. Overall, the PJ/CRO training pipeline witnesses a 70-80% attrition rate, with most of this attrition on this course (however CROs, on average, have a 90% pass rate from CRO Selection Phase II to graduation).

In 2009, the course was 8-weeks in duration (Slojkowski, 2009), although it has been 9-weeks (Tan, 2010) and 10-weeks in duration since then (Sine, 2013).

The overarching aim of the course is to recruit, train and select future Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officers. Three objectives facilitate this aim, and include:

  1. Function as an indoctrination to the rigours of the Pararescue training pipeline and career field by training candidates in the fundamentals of physical fitness (run, swim, calisthenics, weight training and underwater confidence:
  2. Emphasise teamwork and the Pararescue core values built upon the US Air Force core values; and
  3. Prepare candidates for pipeline and career field success.

Training includes physical conditioning (such as swimming, running, calisthenics, obstacle course and loaded marches), mental conditioning, exercise physiology, diving theory, metric manipulations, medical and dive terminology, PJ/CRO history and leadership modules.

The following must graduate the PJ/CRO Indoctrination Course before they can enter the follow-on Pararescue training pipeline, all:

  • Re-trainees (i.e. US Air Force personnel who have completed basic military training and advanced training);
  • Prior Service;
  • Air National Guard;
  • Air Force Reserve;
  • Non-Prior Service personnel (i.e. those who need to undertake basic military training first).

3.7     Air Force Combat Dive Course – Open Circuit

Oh Dear.
Oh Dear.

The Air Force Combat Dive Course – Open Circuit is delivered by the US Naval Diving Salvage Training Centre, part of the US Naval System Agency (NSA), located in Panama City, Florida (CFETP, 2008).

The primary focus of the course, which is 6-weeks in duration, is to develop Pararescue/Combat Rescue Officers and Combat Controller/Special Tactics Officers into competent, capable and safe combat divers/swimmers.

The course provides diver training through classroom instruction, extensive physical training, surface and sub-surface water confidence pool exercises, pool familiarisation dives, day/night tactical open water surface/sub-surface infiltration swims, open/closed circuit diving procedures and underwater search and recovery procedures.

As I understand it, Pararescue personnel attend the Air Force Closed Circuit Dive Transition Course upon receiving orders to Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) or AFSOC gained ARC units.

3.8     Basic Airborne Course

US Army, Airborne Training, Basic Airborne CourseAll candidates must attend the Basic Airborne Course delivered by the US Army at the Airborne School, Fort Benning in Georgia (CFETP, 2008).

During the 3-week course, candidates will learn the basic parachuting skills required to infiltrate an objective area by static line airdrop.

Detailed information on the 3-week Basic Airborne Course can be found here (scroll down to Section 3.2).

3.9     Military Free-fall Course

Candidates may attend one of two courses (CFETP, 2008):

  • US Army Military Free-fall (MFF) course: is delivered over 5-weeks at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. This MFF training is an initial skills course that provides academic, ground, and free-fall training to first time jumpers. Training includes: wind tunnel training; in-air instruction focusing on student stability; aerial manoeuvres; air sense; parachute opening procedures; and parachute canopy control.
  • US Navy MFF course: is delivered at Jamul in California.

3.10     USAF Underwater Egress Training

Royal Marines Dunker Drills
Royal Marines Dunker Drills

Underwater Egress Training (UET) is delivered at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington (CFETP, 2008). I believe the course is delivered over 1-day.

SERE specialists train personnel how to safely escape from an aircraft that has landed in the water. Training includes principles, procedures and techniques necessary to escape a sinking aircraft.

The UET systems are a collection of mature technology training devices that provide emergency egress training techniques and procedures to passengers of aircraft, wheeled, and tracked vehicles from submerged water conditions.

Consequently, the purpose of UET is to enhance passenger survivability, regardless of platform or the causal factors that result in a rollover or submersion incident. UET provides this training in a coordinated physical environment in which knowledge based instruction is taught in the classroom which can then be applied and practiced in a safe, supervised and realistic environment.

UET includes a number of training devices:

  • The Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer (MAET) is a simulated generic fuselage section representing specific aircraft, cockpit and cabin emergency escape exits.
  • The Submerged Vehicle Egress Trainer (SVET) is a ground vehicle simulation of the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) and a generic amphibious track platform.
  • Shallow Water Egress Training (SWET) training, which includes the SWET chair.
  • Familiarisation and operation of the Intermediate Passenger Helicopter Air Breathing Device (IPHABD).

3.11     Emergency Parachute Training

Emergency Parachute Training is delivered at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington (CFETP, 2008).

3.12     SERE Training

The 2.5-week (3-weeks?) SERE (Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion) training course is delivered by the US Air Force Basic Survival School, located at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington (CFETP, 2008).

The course teaches basic survival techniques for remote areas (using minimal equipment) and training include principles, procedures, equipment and techniques, which enable individuals to survive, regardless of climatic conditions or unfriendly environments and return home.

3.13     Special Operations Combat Medic Course

US Army, Medical (1)The Special Operations Combat Medic (SOCM) course is 36-weeks in duration and is delivered by the Joint Special Operation Medical Training Centre, located at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Further details can be found here (scroll down to Section 3.6).

Previously, candidates completed two courses delivered at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico:

  • The 4 week, 2 day Pararescue Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) – Basic, followed by;
  • The 24 week Pararescue Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) – Paramedic.

The Pararescue Operations Medical Advisory Board, which is located at the New York University and comprised of flight surgeons and pararescue personnel, meets twice a year to review and revise guidelines for the medical protocols, training and equipment used by the US Air Force’s Pararescue teams (NYU, 2016).

3.14     Pararescue and Recovery Apprentice Course

The Pararescue and Recovery Apprentice Course is delivered by the Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer School, located at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

It is the formal course training portion of Initial Qualification Training (IQT) and is currently under revision (CFETP, 2011).

This course qualifies candidates as Pararescue recovery specialists for assignment to any Pararescue unit worldwide. Training includes:

Training on this course includes:

  • Pararescue field medicine;
  • Advanced weapons training;
  • Land navigation;
  • Combat tactics;
  • Mountain and technical rescue;
  • Advanced parachuting; and
  • Advanced helicopter operations.

Training culminates with 2 weeks of realistic mission scenarios so that candidates can consolidate and demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have learned and developed.

3.15     Graduation

Upon graduation, candidates will be awarded the coveted scarlet beret and Pararescue Flash (a tradition started in 1966) signifying their entry into the Special Tactics brotherhood (Kendall, 2013).

Graduating from the Pararescue training pipeline, Enlisted Pararescue are assigned to an operational Special Tactics Squadron (STS) in AFSOC or Air Combat Command.


4.0     Summary

The Pararescue branch is open to all male and female enlisted personnel of the US Air Force. Pararescue Training seeks to attract determined, highly-motivated, intelligent, reliable and physically fit individuals to serve with the US Air Force’s SOF community. This article provides the basic information to allow individuals to make an informed judgement before applying for Pararescue training.

4.1     TV Documentaries

First aired in August 2010, ‘Surviving the Cut’ was a 12-part, two season series for the Discovery Channel that followed elite and special forces trainees from across the US military during their training programmes.

  • Season 1, Episode 2 ‘Pararescue’, first aired in August 2010, followed trainees during their indoctrination phase of Pararescue/Combat Rescue Officer training. Trainees had to survive one notoriously difficult milestone called Extended Training Day nothing else in any special operations training course rivals the torment of this single day. Only 10% survive the cut.
  • Season 2, Episode 3 ‘Air Force Diver’, first aired in July 2011, followed trainees as they are pushed to the limit as they struggle to learn the art of staying calm in adverse underwater conditions. 1 in 3 will not survive the cut.

Inside Combat Rescue was a six-part documentary first aired in 2013 on the Discovery Channel. For the first time ever, camera crews embedded on a deployment to Afghanistan with members of the US Air Force’s Pararescue.

A fascinating insight, and eye-opening experience, into the selection and training process for one of the US military’s Special Operations Forces units. You WILL feel the pain after watching the physical and mental challenges these candidates are faced with.

4.2     Useful Books, Documents and Magazines

  • Air Force Policy Directives (AFPD):
    • AFPD 10-30 – Personnel Recovery. Dated 09 February 2012.
    • AFPD 10-35 – Battlefield Airmen.
    • AFPD 16-12 – Pararescue. Dated 01 July 1998.
    • AFPD 16-13 – Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape (SERE). Dated 01 March 2000.
  • Air Force Instructions (AFI):
    • AFI 13-112, Volume 1, Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Training Programme.
    • AFI 13-112, Volume 2, Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Standardisation/Evaluation Programme.
    • AFI 13-219, Volume 1 – Combat Control & Special Tactics Officer Training. Dated 21 April 2011.
    • AFI 13-219, Volume 2 – Combat Control & Special Tactics Officer Standardisation & Evaluation. Dated 21 April 2011.
    • AFI 16-1202, Volume 1, Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer Training Programme.
    • AFI 16-1202, Volume 2, Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer Standardisation and Evaluation.
      • AFGCM Supplement 16-1202, Volume 2, Pararescue and Combat Rescue Officer Standardisation and Evaluation.
    • AFI 31-501, Personnel Security Programme Management.
    • AFI 36-2210, Airfield Operations Officer Training Programme.
    • AFI 48-123, Medical Examinations and Standards.
  • Career Field Education & Training Plans (CFETP):
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 13DX, Combat Rescue Officer. Dated 01 February 2015.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 15WX, Weather Officer. Dated 15 March 2012.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1C2X1, Combat Control. Dated 01 September 2014.
    • Career Field Education & Training Plan for AFSC 1T2XX, Pararescue Specialty. Dated 15 May 2008.
  • Reports and Studies:
  • Books:

4.3     Useful Links

4.4     References

Acosta, H., Rose, M. & Manley, G. (2014) Battlefield Airmen and Combat Support: Selection and Classification Process. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.acq.osd.mil/rd/hptb/hfetag/meetings/documents/TAG_68_19_22_May_ABERDEEN_P_G_MD/Personnel/PresentationsPersonnel%20SubTAG/6_Personnel_SubTAG_2014_BA_CS_Brief_DSYX_%26_AFRS.pptx. [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Air Force Times (2015) What It Takes to be a Combat Controller and Special Tactics Officer. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/careers/air-force/2015/12/14/what-takes-combat-controller-and-special-tactics-officer/77151426/. [Accessed: 02 March, 2016].

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (2016) Air Force ROTC. Available from World Wide Web: https://daytonabeach.erau.edu/rotc/air-force/index.html. [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Joseph, M. (2011) New Element Assists TACP, CCT and PJ Trainees. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.jbsa.mil/News/News/tabid/11890/Article/462734/new-element-assists-tacp-cct-and-pj-trainees.aspx. [Accessed: 10 March, 2016].

Kendall, J. (2013) Behind the Scenes with the Pararescuemen. Available from World Wide Web: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/inside-combat-rescue/articles/behind-the-scenes-with-the-pararescuemen/. [Accessed: 13 March, 2016].

Lee, S. (2016) Pararescue Jumpers. Minneapolis, Minnesota: ABDO Publishing.

Losey, S. (2018) Air Force rolls out new job-specific PT tests to better prepare airmen for the fight. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2018/01/23/air-force-rolls-out-new-job-specific-pt-tests-to-better-prepare-airmen-for-the-fight/. [Accessed: 22 November, 2018].

NCSAS (National Cadet Special Activities) (2016) Pararescue and Survival Orientation Course. Available from World Wide Web: http://ncsas.com/index.cfm/pararescue_orientation_course?show=career_fair&careerFairID=3. [Accessed: 13 March, 2016].

News Mirror (2015) Nick Stanton Graduates from USAF Pararescue Training. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.newsmirror.net/news/nick-stanton-graduates-from-usaf-pararescue-training/article_57ffaf1e-953b-11e5-9dbb-efaf999f00d0.html. [Accessed: 13 March, 2016].

NYU (New York University) (2016) Pararescue Medical Operations Advisory Board. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.med.nyu.edu/neurosurgery/education-training/residency-program/pararescue-advisory-board. [Accessed: 13 March, 2016].

Pellerin, C. (2015) SecDef Opens all Military Occupations to Women. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.therecruiterjournal.com/secdef-opens-all-military-occupations-to-women.html. [Accessed: 04 December, 2015].

Scott, A. (2016) Upcoming Report: US Air Force Battlefield Airmen Physical Fitness Test. Available from World Wide Web: http://strongswiftdurable.com/military-athlete-articles/upcoming-report-analysis-proposed-us-air-force-battlefield-airmen-physical-fitness-test/. [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Sine, W.F. (2013) Guardian Angel: Life and Death Adventures with Pararescue, the World’s Most Powerful Commando Rescue Force. New York, New York: Open Road Media.

Slojkowski, M. (2009) Improving Fitness Standards and Evaluation Methodologies for Combat Rescue Officers and Pararescuemen. Thesis. Available from World Wide Web: http://handle.dtic.mil/100.2/ADA540090. [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Tan, M. (2010) AETC Aims to Lower Warzone Job Washouts. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.socnet.com/showthread.php?t=94855. [Accessed: 13 March, 2016].

US Air Force (2011) 342D Training Squadron. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.37trw.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=18585. [Accessed: 06 March, 2016].

US Air Force (2014a) Air Force Officer Classification Directory (AFOCD). Randall Air Force Base, Texas: Air Force Personnel Centre.

US Air Force (2014b) Air Force Enlisted Classification Directory (AFECD). Randall Air Force Base, Texas: Air Force Personnel Centre.

USA Jobs (2014) Training Instructor. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/PrintPreview/370209800. [Accessed: 03 March, 2016].

Vogel, J.L. (2015) Statement of General Joseph L. Vogel, U.S. Army Commander United States Special Operations Command before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, March 18, 2015. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.socom.mil/Documents/2015%20USSOCOM%20Posture%20Statement.pdf. [Accessed: 29 December, 2015].